When Christmas Really Is About The Giving

So Nick has finished his first year of High School and is on holiday for six weeks. It has been a year of ups and downs, but as sometimes happens when you face things and don’t give up on them, it has turned out to be a good year.

Nick’s former primary school is known by locals as the Yuppie School. A very eighties description, to be sure, but in many ways it fits. If I were to use one word to capture the flavour of that former school it would be homogeneous. In a socioeconomic sense, mostly. Middle class, homeowners, two cars, lots of holidays away to fancy places. It was a little microcosm of the way life should be right on the edges of the city.

Nick’s High School is a microcosm of the way life actually is – for many, many people. When you hear the words economic downturn, it is a state that affects a large percentage of families at his school.

Shoes with holes in them. No money for lunch. No money for pens or pencils. No money for excursions. If you are struggling in a subject you don’t get a tutor, you just stay at the bottom of the class.

Seeing this, acknowledging this, feeling empathy for this has been really good for Nick.

And for me.

I struggle too, although things are getting better.

In Nick’s last year of primary school an excursion was organised to one of the local snowfields. It would have cost around $250 plus extras like ski hire, snow gear and so on. I just couldn’t afford it. I was honest with his teacher about why he couldn’t go and she looked at me like I had been caught putting lit cigarettes out on his arms or something. She gave me such a hard time about it that I told no one else I was skint. I made up some stupid story that sounded totally lame and unconvincing, but I was so upset and humiliated by her reaction I could come up with nothing else.

Nick was the only one in his year who didn’t go to the snowfields. The only one. I still feel bad about it. But speaking to some of the parents at his new school has helped me a lot. Through no fault of our own some of us are following very tight budgets. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Our kids still have everything they need, and if they can’t have the extras they can’t have them – and there’s no shame in that.

Now comes the part that made me proud. Nick is a gamer. He loves his videogames. He saves every cent he gets in order to buy new games. He had saved over a hundred dollars and had his heart set on a new game. But he spent all the money buying presents for some of his friends at school.

Harry’s Mum has been ill all year. Money is really tight for them and Harry admitted to Nick that he probably wouldn’t get any Christmas presents this year. So Nick used his savings to buy him a present. Harry was so overcome he burst into tears. Nick experienced that rare moment where a lightbulb goes on and you realise there is a great deal of truth in the saying :

It is better to give than receive.

I felt really good, Mum, he said. I felt really good.

His other friend, Karen, lives in the housing commission estate near the school. This girl is going places. She got eight Academic Excellence awards. I was blown away when I met her – the type of person who you immediately feel better for knowing.

Sadly, her building is being pulled down and she is being relocated way out west, so Nick won’t see her next year.

(As an aside can I say that the Department of Housing should be ashamed of itself for not finding accommodation in the local area for this excellent student and her mother so she can still attend the school at which she’s done so well. Any available housing has probably gone to a junkie who’s going to rip outΒ  all the fixtures and fittings to sell for drugs. And spend his spare time breaking into his neighbours houses…)

Nick bought Karen a present too. She was surprised and touched. She hopes she can move back into the area when they are seniors. I hope so too.

When you think you know everything about everything life comes along and teaches you a thing or two. Things are put very firmly into perspective.

I didn’t expect that out of the blue my games-obsessed son would give up the chance of a new game so friends who might normally have received nothing could have a Christmas gift. And that he would not expect a gift in return.

Christmas really is about the giving. And sometimes the giving provides you with more good cheer than you thought it ever could.

It’s good to be reminded of that.

* Image by Damon Hart-Davis

20 thoughts on “When Christmas Really Is About The Giving

  1. What a great story Selma. Good for Nick. Those light bulb moments that are tied to kindness and empathy are the most important ones. I truly believe that.
    We live paycheque to paycheque basically and sometimes it is so difficult I find especially when we return “home” to a place that is very different to where we live. The $$ there flows more fully, and the discussions reflect that. Whereas in the Canadian Maritimes, there is a more realistic grounding which to me is humbling. Having worked in the frontlines for many years with people who are truly struggling, many who have grown up in public housing and in poverty, I can honestly say that it has opened my eyes in ways that I don’t think they would’ve been open had we not moved here and settled. My kids see the world in a different way than I did growing up, and i think that’s a good thing.
    Today, as a family we will decorate the Community Kitchen for Christmas. We’ve done it for a few years now as my husband is involved volunteering and on the board. I love doing it! Its a good lesson for all of us.


  2. Well this post certianly has me in tears. Selma, you are raising a very responsible and loving son. You should be so proud.

    Any chance you Aussies still go in for arranged marriages . I have a daughter….. πŸ™‚


  3. Oh gosh, that is one of the most lovely stories I have heard in ages. What a wonderful son you have.

    I am not sure my sons would be so gracious and giving. I hope they would but I am honestly not sure they would.

    It’s a shame we live so far away though as I think Nick and Harry and Jack would get on really well.

    I think that sending your children to a Real World school is a good thing for the children but it can be stressful for parents. My sons were at the local school which was very Real World, but I simply couldn’t bear it any more (they had to struggle so hard to learn because there was so much aggro in the classroom). They are still in State Schools but I have shipped them out of the city to County Schools. It’s a bit of a cop out I know.


  4. That brought a great big lump to my throat Selma. I often feel as proud of Nick as if he were one of my own. He sounds like a wonderful lad and has obviously been well brought up. That kind of act comes from deep within one’s heart and I guarantee it is something that Harry and Karen will never forget.


  5. This story reminded me a lot of a trip to Paris our school was organising. I know my parents were reluctant to finance it, but were going to, anyway, because ‘everyone else was going’.

    Until Charles’ parents said straight out they couldn’t afford to send him … Charles was one of seven children, and they didn’t want to favour him over the others.

    Then James, one of the biggest and brightest boys in the class said, well, if Charles can’t go, I’m not going! A lot of us followed suit, because we looked on James (he hated being called Jim, by the way) as leader, and, in the end, only five went.


  6. You and your husband must take a lot of the credit, too. I just remembered a school friend who bought his friend a small gift … and got berated by his mother for ‘wasting his money’


  7. That’s the sort of generous act that would make me proud as punch, as a parent! You have a lovely son. Some of the kids at my kids school are some of the poorest around – some only own one pair of shoes, and the P&C fund raises to pay for most of their expenses (because they know they won’t be able to afford them – school camp or fun days).


  8. What a mature, thoughtful and kind-hearted son you have. Really at that age, I doubt if I would have thought so much about my classmates and would have splurged the cash on myself. Bravo Nick.

    Hey……is he Saint Nick, Saint Nicklaus, Santa Claus?!!!!???


  9. What a wonderful story. Nick sounds like a fantastic young man. My guess is he realized the best gift ever is giving from your heart to someone else.


  10. You Rock, You are such an awesome MOM. Just look at how wonderful your son is growing up! Makes my heart sing.

    “Christmas really is about the giving. And sometimes the giving provides you with more good cheer than you thought it ever could.”



  11. Selma, you should most definitely feel very proud and chuffed by your son. You are obviously a great mother. I agree with you re: the injustice of the Dept. of Housing and relocating Karen. I hope she continues to do well and finds new friends like your lovely Nick.


    It’s good to get a taste of the real world at a young age, I suspect. I do hope he’ll end up being quite well-rounded as a result.

    I agree with you completely. Good on you for decorating the community kitchen. I have done similar things in the past and it is so rewarding. For me that is what Christmas is all about. I think it has been good for Nick to experience people from different walks of life. A welcome change, in fact.

    Now that would be cool. We’d certainly churn out a writer grandchild with our genes. Shame Nick is younger than your daughter. Maybe they’ll meet up when they’re older when age isn’t such an issue. You just never know….

    Our boys would definitely get on. That is such a valid point. The ‘real world’ schools are much more stressful for us. The kids just get on with things and pick up incredible life skills. The whole thing has been a learning experience for me as well as for him!

    I hope they all manage to stay in contact. It is nice to have genuine people in your life. I feel the same way about your girls. I feel like I know them too!


    What a lovely thing to do. Children can be amazingly noble and caring. I feel quite moved by your story!

    Awww. Thanks so much πŸ˜€

    I’m really glad to hear the P&C do that because it can be so distressing for a child to miss out on things. There are a lot of people struggling out there. You read in the papers that Australia avoided much of the economic downturn, but I’m not so sure.

    He has his moments of being a good boy. A bit of a relief because as a toddler he was a bit of a rascal!

    Give him a long white beard and you never know πŸ˜†

    It’s good to learn that lesson, isn’t it? The world is so full of people obsessed with themselves. I feel glad he experienced that. I really appreciate your visit!

    They really do, don’t they? I was quite surprised. But these kids obviously meant something to him and he empathised with their situation. I’m really glad.

    Aww, thanks, hon. You are far too kind. I’m just trying to do my best πŸ™‚

    The Department. Really. What were they thinking? I feel really upset with them. I said to her Mum that I’d help them find a place closer to the area if she wanted me too. I’m good at writing a letter or four. It might not be all over just yet!


  14. What a wonderful boy you have brought forth. I love hearing these acts of kindness as performed by teens, they get it, and that is great. I want my boys to get it like Nick. Thanks for sharing and happy holidays to you.


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