Years ago, Ron and Ruth Penner decided to make generosity part of their Christmas season. Now, it’s a holiday tradition for three generations of the family.
“I remember our dad taking us to volunteer at a group home at Christmas time,” recalls their daughter, Robyn Penner Thiessen. “We were all very uncomfortable with it, thinking, ‘Dad, this is our family Christmas!’ but he believed it was so important for Christmas to not just be about ourselves.”
Now that Robyn and her siblings are grown and have their own families, they’re trying to instill generosity in their children the same way their parents did with them.
“Kids learn from watching their parents,” explains Duane, Robyn’s brother. “We decided early that we wanted them to see us give, and as they got older, be involved in giving.”
For the extended Penner family giving takes a variety of forms, like gathering as a family to assemble MCC school and relief kits and doing Christmas shopping at Ten Thousand Villages. One of their favourite ways to give is through MCC’s annual Christmas Giving program.
“We ask our kids to only give us gifts from the catalogue,” says Ruth, and her children are happy to oblige. “We find something in the giving catalog that would honour them or reflect their values,” Robyn describes.
Duane’s family chooses projects to give to together. “We say, ‘We’re going to give this much money away, so what resonates with you right now?’ Because it’s MCC, we’re confident anything that’s in the catalogue is something we believe in!”
The Penners’ tradition of holiday giving has started spreading beyond the family in recent years. Last year, Robyn and her husband Al let their children use the MCC giving booklet to choose presents for their teachers and coaches. They can see their children growing up with generous hearts, too. “They are aware of the needs in the world in a way they wouldn’t have been,” Robyn says.
Giving has helped the family keep their faith in God as the central focus of the Christmas season. “It’s one of the few things that’s simple about faith,” Duane reflects. “Not easy, but simple. Love me and love others.”