The holidays are a time to celebrate, make memories, and experience the magic of togetherness. What better way to truly feel the spirit of the holidays than to give back to the very community that provides us with belongingness, family, and home! Giving back can really do wonders in terms of instilling a sense of meaning and reward.
Giving back may mean different things to different people. For some, it may be the offer of time, resources, and donations. For others, it may be a moment of patience or act of kindness. Whatever floats your holiday boat, here are some easy, practical ways to give back to the larger community during this holiday season!
Become an Elf
Lots of organizations need help during the holiday season. Be it a soup kitchen, seniors’ shelter, or clothing bank, the end of the year can be a busy time for non-profits. By lending a helping hand and volunteering your time with these institutions, you can directly make an impact on the lives of the underprivileged who may not have even the basics during celebrations. What’s even better is that you can multiply the impact (and fun times!) by bringing along some generous family and friends.
Time is of the essence? Worry not! During the holiday season, many organizations are accepting donations in the form of money, gift baskets, canned foods, socks, toiletries, toys, handwritten cards, and so much more. A quick Google search or even social media networks can be a great source to find people and committees that are putting together gifts and donations for those that are in need. When volunteering your time is not an option, a quick drop-off of these items can do the trick. An extension of this idea is making charitable donations in the name of your gift recipient, as a gift to them!
Giving back in a materialistic or measurable way is not the only way to lighten up the lives of others. Simple acts of positivity can go a long way. Compliment the cashier on your way out of the grocery store. Help your new neighbors move in. Make a cup of hot chocolate for the construction worker outside your house. Even a smile and a wave of the hand can sometimes be the turning point to someone’s bad day. Random acts of kindness for the win!
Christmas isn’t the only widely celebrated holiday during the winter. Many cultures hold a diverse array of celebrations during this time. Educate yourself, your friends and family, and coworkers on these holidays and remember to wish those that may be celebrating. If you are not sure what the background of these celebrations are, ask those that may know! Be culturally aware of not just your own, but the holidays of others. Some examples of popular holidays, other than Christmas, include Hanukkah, Las Posadas, Winter Solstice/Yule/Christmastide, Soyal, and Kwanzaa.
Joy to the World
It is often said that charity starts at home. Happy communities need happy people. This holiday season, be sure to send a card, dial the phone, or hop on a video call with friends and family that may be feeling isolated, struggling with mental health issues, and/or may be far away from home. The holidays can be a tough time for some and not everyone may be courageous enough to ask for a listening ear. If you think someone may be in need of a little holiday magic, sprinkle your love and best wishes their way!
Thinking of bringing a furry friend into the house as a holiday present this year? A great way to make this experience even better is to adopt a rescue animal. Research into your local animal shelters and organizations to find out how you can adopt a pet (or spend time with one) who may have otherwise suffered abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment. Giving these pals a new home and endless love is truly embodying the holiday spirit. Plus, these four-legged bundles of joy are guaranteed to give you back double the love and appreciation!
While a white Christmas is always welcome, the new woke thing to do is #gogreen during the holidays. Make environmentally-friendly decisions that put the planet first. Some simple ideas include putting less packaging on gifts, using paper vs. plastic wraps, decorating with non-plastic decorations, reusing decorations, making DIY gifts and decorations rather than buying new ones, regifting, recycling the Christmas tree when it can no longer be used, and using plant-based ingredients for holiday meals.
While soaking in the lights and glitz of the holiday season, remember that the true spirit of celebration is encompassed in giving back to others. However you may do it - big or small, near or far - the intention is what matters. Every act of giving back counts. As the tale of the star thrower goes, “One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked, he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one. Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, ‘I’m saving these starfish, sir.’ The old man chuckled aloud, ‘Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?’ The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “It made a difference to that one!’”