The time leading up to the holidays see so many people stress out over Christmas, Kwanzaa and/or Hanukkah! Everyone spends a lot time rushing off to visit friends and family, preparing meals, eating and drinking more than necessary and we can’t forget the SHOPPING. Everyone gets so wrapped up in all these activities that they often forget that many people are not as fortunate and aren’t able to enjoy the things that we now associate with the holiday season. It is so important for everyone to remember the true meaning of the holidays and to take a moment to give back to our communities. Here are a couple of ideas to get you thinking outside the box. These are ideas that don’t necessarily cost a lot of money, but will help you make sure you are sharing the joy of the holiday season:
- Involve your kids. Sit down with them and go through their toys before Christmas. Chances are you have some that haven’t even been played with. Get them to choose a couple of toys that they are willing to part with and then have them help you drop them off at a local donation centre. Not only does this teach your children the spirit of giving, but also helps make room for the new items coming in. A win-win if you ask me.
- Donate money. It doesn’t have to be a lot; sometimes a small amount goes a long way. Our local mission has a program where for only $3.69 (a cup of coffee) you can give the gift of a warm meal to someone in need.
- Commit a random act of kindness (RAOK) for someone i.e. buy the person behind you in line at the coffee shop a hot beverage. Need some inspiration? Visit Random Acts of Kindness and browse their database of over 250 ideas!
- Visit with people at a local homeless shelter or nursing home. Often a friendly face will make the world of difference to someone’s mood.
- Volunteer your time. There are a number places looking for extra hands this season. The Salvation Army always needs people to man their red kettles, food banks look for people to help package and sort incoming food and soup kitchens need assistance with serving. Maybe start a family tradition and volunteer your time together.
- Purchase a gift using a site like Ten Thousand villages and support World Fair Trade. By purchasing your gifts through a fair trade organization you are improving the livelihood of disadvantaged artisans from around the world.
- Donate to the food bank. When you are doing your grocery shopping, pick up a non-perishable food item to donate to the local food bank. Did you know that in Canada almost 900,000 people are assisted by food banks each month? Find your closest food bank and make a donation.
- Drop off a gently used coat at West49 and support their coats for kids program. As a thank you, you will receive a $25 discount of the purchase of a new coat.
- Have a family gift exchange (usually for the adults) and instead of buying each other gifts buy a children’s gift that would suit the recipient’s personality. For example Uncle Fred loves football so you buy him a child size jersey of his favourite team. This is fun because everyone still gets to open a gift, but then it is all donated to those who really need it.
- Donate to a charity in someone’s memory. We have had people donate to the local children’s hospital in memory of our son and we really appreciate knowing the money is helping kids in our area.
- Check out your local Santa Claus parade. They often have different “drives” going on where you can bring an item and they will donate it for you. Where we live they go down the parade route collecting socks for the homeless – you can even take them right off your feet, as long as they match!
The ideas above don’t take much time or financial commitment to make the season a bit brighter for others. What does your family do to give back during the holidays, or throughout the year?