The holidays are fun and exciting, especially when you take the time to pay the full richness of your life forward. There are as many ways to give back this holiday season as there are gifts lining the shelves of your local retailer.
Small kindnesses go a long way, and you never know the power of your gift. It isn’t about the financial aspect of a present – which is what often stops people from giving. Gifts, whether handmade or thoughtfully purchased, remind people that you are thinking of them and that you care. Such kindness has a ripple effect – a few small gifts and you are on your way to changing the world.
Places and People to Give to during the Holidays
If you are looking for some ways to give back, consider these twelve tips for helping others this holiday.
1. Learn a song.
Learn a song that makes you happy. It can be a holiday song or simply a song that makes you tap your toes. Learn it on the piano, on a guitar or with your voice. Follow YouTube tutorials if you’re unsure of the exact notes. Once you have it down, share it. Visit nursing homes – people there enjoy music, even when they can’t communicate – and play your song. Play it at holiday parties or just for your mom. I promise, she’ll love it.
2. Participate in an Urban Garden.
Looking to volunteer time and feed the hungry? Be a part of The Urban Farming Community Garden and Green Science program. Not only do these programs beautify urban spaces like unused city lots and rooftops, they bring communities together. The gardens are free for area residents, regardless of whether they worked in the garden. The food helps families suffering from food insecurity. Gardens always need maintenance, and your work would go far.
3. Be a teacher.
We are all full of skills to share, so consider what you can give to the world and teach it today. Develop a practice for chair yoga and offer a free community class. A yoga studio in Marquette, Michigan offers a free yoga class at the outdoor farmer’s market. Every yoga class improves the world of each participant.
4. Take care of someone, but keep it quiet.
Maybe it snows where you are – if so, be a little late for work and shovel your neighbor’s driveway. Does a co-worker seem lonely? Put some chocolate on her desk. Pay for the cup of coffee of the guy behind you. Small things like this are only small to the giver. They transform the receiver’s entire day.
5. Take care of someone across the globe.
We have much to be grateful for in the United States. Giving globally has a huge impact, even if your funds seem small. What is little to you can be a lifesaver in war-torn countries like Syria. Aleppo, the war-torn city at the heart of the Syrian civil war, could use all the kind thoughts and prayers you have today.
6. Spend time with a child.
Maybe you have a niece or nephew you haven’t seen in a while. Maybe the neighbor kid could use a friend. Children are often overlooked – even during the holidays. Some parents are so busy working to buy gifts, they neglect what kids might need most – their attention. Play ball or help a kid with homework. It won’t go unappreciated, though the gratitude might go unsaid.
7. Donate blood.
You can literally save a life by pausing long enough to give blood. It’s a gift that requires no money, but it’s more precious than anything you could put in a toy drive. Unfortunately, the busyness of the season means many who tend to donate forget or run out of time, though people are still in need.
8. Host a book exchange.
Those crazy gifts you get from your co-workers, like the festive ugly sweater or the automated coin jar, likely end up in your give-away pile come January. Instead of adding to landfills, organize a book exchange. It’s easy to do: host a party where everyone brings a book and a dish to pass and everyone leaves with a book. Or, stick with the secret Santa idea and instead of a gift under $20, everyone picks out a book for the name they drew.
9. Start a family journal.
The wisdom of generations can be passed down in one little book. Have everyone in the family write a life lesson in a journal. Either keep it as a family keepsake or make copies of the pages and create a book for each member of your family.
10. Donate socks to a homeless shelter.
While all donations are useful, the number one requested item from those in homeless shelters is socks. Grab a pair at your next shopping trip and toss them in a donation box.
11. Shop with compassion.
Did the sock idea remind you that your kids could use some stockings in their stocking? For every pair of socks you buy from the sock company, Bombas, the company donates a pair of socks to a homeless shelter. There are other companies that run their business with compassion – Toms, the shoe company, will donate a pair of shoes for every pair you buy. The clothing company, Life Is Good, donates 10% of their profits to needy kids.
You may be having fun singing carols and shopping, but for many, the holidays are a challenging time. Despite crowds around you and the stress of the season, smile at those you meet. You never know someone else’s trouble, and a kind face will lift any spirit.