What Did You Get?

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Itʼs easy, tempting, and lazy, even, to ask the generic questions this time of year when working with young people: “What do you want for Christmas?” and, after Christmas, “What did you get?”

I canʼt count how many times or to how many kids Iʼve asked that question. But it all stopped a couple of years ago when I asked a 14 year old kid what he got for Christmas.

“A new truck,” he replied, nonchalantly.

“Like a toy truck? Or a remote controlled truck?” I asked, innocently.

“No. Like a truck, truck. A pick up truck.”

“Oh. But... you canʼt drive yet.” “Yea. I know.”

“Oh... Do you like it...?”

“Meh. I mean, itʼs alright. But Iʼd rather have a car.”

“Meh.” I was floored by 1) the fact that he got a truck that he couldnʼt drive and 2) his reaction to receiving a truck.

It was then that I realized I needed to stop being lazy and come up with a better approach to communicating with kids during the Christmas season.

From that point on, I decided that I will no longer be asking kids what they want for Christmas or what they got for Christmas. Instead, I started asking, “What are you giving so-and-so for Christmas?” and “What did you give for Christmas?” I know itʼs not much, but I want to work in whatever little angle I can to remind my kids that Christmas really isnʼt about what we get.

And sometimes the reactions have been priceless. “What do you mean, ʻwhat did I give for Christmas?ʼ”

I donʼt, in any way, want to “shame” the kids for responses like, “Iʼve never given anything at Christmas to anyone.” But it does open up a wonderful opportunity to have discussions about Christmas and what it can really be about. Anytime I can plant a seed in the mind of a pre-teen or young teenagers to think about someone else, I count that as a win.

So I hope that during this wonderful season, we open up conversations with young people beyond “What did you get for Christmas?”


Joseph Yoo is pastor of youth and spiritual formation at Valencia United Methodist Church in Valencia, CA. He blogs at Step by Step.
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