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A Conversation with the Author

How did the Sparkle Box tradition come to be?

For a number of years, my husband and I had purchased gifts of compassion in honor of family members for Christmas, but we missed purchasing gifts that were chosen just for them—and we sensed they missed it, too! In fact, one family member jokingly said to me, “Why don’t you give the gift in honor of yourself and get me a regular gift!” That conversation raised an important question: “Who are we really honoring when we give a gift of compassion?” My husband and I discussed this question and came to a heartfelt conclusion: we were honoring Jesus. We agreed we would still purchase gifts of compassion, only this year we would record them on slips of paper and put them under our tree for Jesus. On Christmas morning, we opened Jesus’ gift and read out loud each activity we had done in His honor. The overwhelming feeling of love and joy moved us to tears. Each year we have continued this tradition and it has centered not only Christmas morning, but also the entire Christmas season.

How has your Christmas changed since you started this tradition with your family?

It has changed Christmas in many ways.

  • Everything is twice as nice! We still exchange gifts with family and friends, and participate in festivities, but the happiness we experience as we plan our gifts for Jesus infuses the season with a light and joy it didn’t have before. Stress melts away and all the little things we used to worry about don’t matter. Christmas is centered where it should be, and we enjoy the season so much more because of that.
  • Our children aren’t as focused as they used to be on what they are getting for Christmas. They still get the same types of gifts, but they don’t put the emphasis on them that they used to. I believe the act of giving Jesus a gift has helped them appreciate the true meaning and significance of Christmas Day. They celebrate the day as a day to honor Jesus with gifts for those in need—everything else is icing on the cake.
  • Our children enjoy choosing gifts for Jesus and presenting them on Christmas morning. It’s made them more aware of the need in the world, ignited compassion in their hearts, and made them thankful for a home that is very modest in comparison to the homes many of their peers live in. In fact, last year, after choosing their gifts for Jesus, they walked arm-in-arm around our Cape Cod, just appreciating a warm, dry house with running water. Our daughter said, “We live in a palace.” Our son replied, “We really do.” It was a bittersweet moment. They knew they were fortunate, but they also knew how many people struggle with basic necessities.
  • We don’t just talk about what we are getting family and friends for Christmas; we talk about what we’re getting Jesus for Christmas. The conversation starts weeks ahead of time. We talk about needs, investigate options, and decide how we are going to make a difference—all in Jesus’ honor.

What do you hope others will come away with after reading The Sparkle Box?

For children I hope after reading this book, they will want to give a gift to Jesus. There is no better gift for Jesus on His birthday than a gift to someone in need, because Jesus taught us that whatever we do for those in need, we do for Him. Nothing makes Him happier!

For parents and grandparents who feel overwhelmed by the demands of the Christmas season or disenchanted by the commercialism of the season
In addition to the messages above, I hope they come away with the knowledge that centering Christmas isn’t difficult to do. The simple act of honoring Jesus puts the whole season into perspective and fills it with peace and joy—melting away pressures and commercialism in an instant.

Where has your family found gifts for Jesus?

In addition to helping the needy in our community, we have tapped into larger organizations.

Network for Good™ is the web’s leading charitable giving resource and an excellent place for parents and children to go to research charitable giving opportunities. Over one million charities registered in the United States are featured on Network for Good.

  • You can search by cause or name. What is near and dear to you or your child’s heart—children in need, protecting wildlife or the Earth, providing health care assistance, helping the homeless, clean-water solutions, or something else? You can do a keyword search or search by the organization’s name.
  • Research for each organization is provided for your review. Mission statements, programs, and financial data are included.
  • You can give directly online or give Network for Good’s The Good Card. The is a gift card that lets the recipient choose the cause. For older children, The Good Card is an excellent way to let them choose a gift for Jesus. My husband and I have purchased The Good Card for our children in the past. They used the card to choose a gift for Jesus and surprised us on Christmas morning with what they gave to Jesus.

What about people who don’t have money to buy a gift for Jesus?

There are so many things you can do that honor Jesus on His birthday that don’t cost money. The key is to make it really special. Think of something that will honor Him that you wouldn’t normally do. For example, you might commit to shoveling a neighbor’s driveway for an entire winter, or ‘adopt’ an elderly person at a nursing home. There are other ideas and resources on my website at www.TheSparkleBox.com, and you can also submit your own ideas on the website to help inspire others.