That 's why I thought it was really surprising when, this past summer, my parents chose to buy a goat for a poor family through World Vision as M's fourth birthday present. M definitely is NOT difficult to buy for- she has lots of things she would have liked!
Beatrice's Goat which tells the story of a family in Africa who receives a goat and is able to use the benefits from it to make a better life for themselves. It is told from the perspective of a young girl who would really like to go to school, but whose family cannot afford the cost of a uniform.
My mom read this book with M and talked about it with her to help her understand the present. In the end, M did seem to understand, and she smiled and talked about it positively.
I think it was really special that my parents would want to give M the gift of helping her to develop compassion and empathy for others. That's really an investment in her character, and something that could really make a lasting impression.
Certainly, my parents don't always give this kind of present to my kids. There's a place for giving them fun, traditional gifts too. (It also seems like you have to know the child and their situation pretty well. There are definitely some situations in which this kind of gift would be a really poor choice)
But if it does seem like a good idea for a gift for a child on your list this year, here are some ideas for making it a good experience:
1. Look at the catalogs. Many companies like World Vision put out catalogs of gifts like this that can be given to families all over the world. It might be neat to pore over one of these books with a child to pick out something together.
2. Pray for the family who will receive the gift together with your child.
3. Research the country or region where the gift will go and locate it on a map.
4. Buy a stuffed animal to match the kind of donation as a reminder of the real animal.
5. Encourage imagination. Let your child imagine what the family might name the animal, how they would feel upon receiving it, and what that animal might be doing, etc.
Have you ever tried this sort of present with your children? What suggestions do you have?