What can preschoolers offer for alms? Although the world says that all children do is take from you, the kingdom of heaven preaches a different word: one that values children, one that views kids as images of ideal kingdom citizens who will inherit the whole world. Many times, when Jesus talks about children, he exalts their humility and dependency as kingdom virtues. Additionally, I believe the wonder and joy that young kids inherently possess is also a mark of the kingdom and one that we can continue to learn from them. All these qualities and more offer us a heavenly perspective that says even the smallest among us has value and talents to share.
However, when we normally think of almsgiving it comes with the connotation of offering money to the church and charities. How can my toddlers participate in that? They have no job, no income of their own to sacrifice. But what they lack in money they make up with other talents to give: time, compassion, joy, wonder, and innocence. These are more valuable than gold.
“Alms” has its etymological roots in the meaning “mercy”, so the practice of offering alms was rooted in the biblical commands to “love mercy” (Micah 6:8) and “be compassionate” (Ephesians 4:32) to the needy. The traditional practice of almsgiving came about as a disciplined way of showing mercy to the poor. The heart of almsgiving is much deeper than just providing some material goods to the poor, rather it is a pouring out of charitable mercy in response to the mercy we’ve received in Christ. My children can certainly participate in that! Over the last few years, our family has tried different ways to incorporate fasting into our Advent season, to contrast and prepare for the 12 feasting days of Christmastide. One way to do that while participating in the feeling and the “reason for the season” is in intentional Advent almsgiving. Below is a list of 25 alms that any child or adult can practice this year, although we only need 22 for 2023 so you can pick your favorite ones.
- Buy $5 gift card and give it to someone who needs a cheer.
- Bake cookies for neighbors.
- Make a card and hand deliver it to a widow.
- Smile at everyone you see today. Spread joy!
- Collect spare change and donate it.
- Choose 3 toys to give to someone else who needs them.
- Choose 2 more toys to give to someone in need.
- Buy someone lunch today, maybe share a meal with them.
- Send a video to anyone who needs to feel loved!
- Mail a hug to someone you don’t get to hug in person today.
- Learn about orphans and donate money to a non-profit in their honor.
- Buy mittens and socks for a homeless person or donate to a shelter.
- Donate too-small or thrifted winter coats to a women’s shelter.
- Learn about those who are hungry and shop for food to donate to the soup kitchen.
- Spend time doing a service project or cleaning your church.
- Donate extra money to your church offering today (give kids cash to participate).
- Be kind today.
- Make a meal for a neighbor or new mom.
- Look for ways to be a peacemaker today.
- Let your words, eyes, and hands be full of gentleness today.
- Donate baby clothes or diapers or Christmas gifts to a pregnancy center.
- Show self-control today in what you eat or spend.
- Learn about the need for clean water and donate to a well-digging non-profit.
- Give a $5 giftcard to a mom shopping with small children today.
- Drop off a baked treat to a friend today!