As you’re shopping for friends and family, have you ever wondered what more you can do during the holidays? Some stores and churches have giving trees where you can pick a name and get presents for someone in need. The church I grew up in has a white gift ceremony every year. Presents are wrapped in white tissue paper and put under the tree, and then donated to a local community organization.
One of my fondest memories was when, as a family, we visited an elderly woman and brought her a meal on Christmas day. A couple of years I went Christmas caroling with other kids from church. One year we visited a nursing home and sang to them. I haven’t had carolers at my door in probably 20 years or more. I think more people should do it! I know it always lifted my spirits whether I was singing or listening.
When I was in college I organized an annual party for kids in the Big Brother Big Sister program. We had food and games and each kid went home with a Christmas present. We received donations from area businesses as well as some toys donated by Toys for Tots (see below).
Here’s some ideas of how to grow your giving spirit this holiday season:
- Sponsor a family and give them presents and/or food
- Go Christmas caroling
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen
- Give an anonymous gift to a neighbor that doesn’t have much family around
- Invite someone to dinner that is alone during the holidays. My grandfather used to literally pull people off the street who were down on their luck and invite them to Christmas dinner.
- Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time and wish them a happy Christmas (or whatever holiday they celebrate)
- When you send your Christmas cards, write a personal note, more than just “Happy Holidays” and signing your name.
There are some great websites that can help you to reach out to strangers this holiday season. Here are a few:
- 2 Hands: Find local people in need and make their holiday dreams come true. On the flip side, if you find yourself in need this holiday, you can post a request for items you would like to receive.
- Operation Christmas Child: I found this organization several years ago and led a campaign at my church to collect items to send to kids all over the world. Each child receives a shoebox full of presents. This is a well-organized way to make a big difference for kids. Just sign up and follow the instructions.
- Heifer International: A couple of years ago my mom told me that she bought herself a goat for Christmas. When I didn’t find a goat at her house, she explained that she had donated money to buy a goat for a family through Heifer International. Goats not your thing? No worries, you can always buy a flock of geese, a pig, heifer, llama, sheep, honeybees, water buffalo, rabbits, an irrigation pump, or other unique gifts. Of course you can also give a general monetary gift that will go where it is most needed.
- Soldier’s Secret Santa: This organization collects monetary donations and turns it into anonymous gifts for children of deployed soldiers. What an incredible way to support our troops and their families that give so much to us every single day.
- Toys for Tots: Almost everyone has probably heard of Toys for Tots by now. There seem to be donation boxes everywhere this time of year. You can help by donating toys at one of these places, donating money, or sponsoring a local toy drop location. Also, if you are in need, you can find information about requesting a toy for your child through their website.
- Angel Tree: Angel Tree collects gifts for children of incarcerated parents. This is a great way to really open you heart and do some good. Become a point of contact to collect gifts at your church or other organization.
Above photo is courtesy of StockFreeImages.com.
How do you teach your kids to think of others and act in a way that has real impact? Does your family have a holiday tradition of giving beyond your own front door?