Here come the holidays and with them, the spirit of giving. But who says you have to give the same way every year? If you have a holiday-giving tradition and you love it and want to stick with it, that’s great! But maybe, like my family, you enjoy shaking things up each year as you explore new ways to enrich other people’s lives.
Big or small, by varying the ways you give, you can create meaningful experiences for your family beyond simply writing a cheque or making an electronic transfer. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving money in any form during the holiday season, why not try to make giving more of a family adventure? Get the whole clan involved in the journey. Encourage family discussions that focus on having empathy for other people’s life situations.
In recent years, we’ve given locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. We strive to be philanthropic as well as spontaneous. By appreciating those we feel grateful for, we touch many lives each holiday season. We don’t give because we are rich; we give because it makes us feel prosperous.
Remember the song from the Disney classic Cinderella, “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes”? Every heart longs for something specific this holiday season. Everyone in the world has needs and wants. Is there any better feeling than fulfilling another person’s yearning? Warming many hearts all holiday season is a lifelong lesson that goes beyond being charitable.
Here are some ideas to get your family brainstorming:
Take a ticket. Look for giving trees in stores that support local charities. Contribute a longed-for toy to a child who might not otherwise receive it or donate experiences like going to the zoo or to the theatre.
Feed your community. Connect school organization fundraisers to local charities by inviting attendees to bring a non-perishable food item or two to gain admission to events that would otherwise be free.
Think stocking stuffer. Buy trinkets for family helpers like babysitters, yard workers, teacher’s helpers, and dog walkers. A little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way.
Donate warmth. Dig through your closets and find old coats or even new coats that seldom get worn. Offer them to a local coat drive or tax-exempt charitable resale shop.
Fill those pots. Keep change in your purse to donate to bell-ringers and others asking for a holiday handout. This is an interactive way to teach children that it is a blessing to give as much as it is to receive.
De-clutter, all year. The less clutter you have, the more generous you have been. Gather donations after the kids go back to school, make another round of donations after the holidays, then de-clutter once more after school gets out for the summer.
Let kids sort, too. Ask your kids to go through their rooms a month before the holidays to make room for the new. Consider the best ways to donate based on what they have to offer.
Use sock sense. Shelters often need donations of new socks. Watch for sales on socks all season, gather as many as you can, and contribute them to a regional shelter.
Connect directly. Join an online community discussion group and watch for requests from local families for holiday assistance. Be sure to choose a safe place to meet up to make any exchanges of goods or food.
Volunteer as a family. Contact local senior centres, soup kitchens, or animal shelters and see if they offer families a way to participate together.
Over there. Via a reputable organization, send holiday boxes to kids in need in third-world countries. Some of these kids have never had the chance to have a favorite toy or dolly.
Bundle them up. Go through your old hats, mittens, and gloves and donate them to a local family shelter.
Double your donation. Participate in a matching gift program of some kind. If applicable, ask your employer what they offer.
Roll up a sleeve; save a life. Donate blood with teens that are eligible to participate. Make it an annual tradition.
Spread seeds. Make a feeder for winter birds and keep it full of birdseed you buy in bulk until Spring arrives.
Turn the page. Go through your shelves and remove books you no longer love. Donate them to your local library or resale shop.
Get crafty. Come up with a fun, simple craft or recipe project so each child can make gifts for friends one weekend. Pinterest is always a good place to look.
Sweets for the sweet. Write thank-you notes to teachers and instructors, and include a gift card for something tasty.
Shop win-win-win. Buy some of your holiday gifts from a shop or organization that supports others. Sustainable gifts, shared profits, and sales that support the community in some way are all fair game.
Be thoughtful. Create a quick, annual list describing your year and mail it to faraway relatives with school photos for their refrigerators.
Toys for the win. Watch for toy baskets at local businesses you frequent. Have your child pick out a toy they once enjoyed receiving to contribute. Or choose one yourself.
Create good karma. Pay for a cup of coffee or cocoa or tea for the next person at the local coffee shop or drive-up window and make someone’s day.
Spread cheer. All season long, encourage your children to slow down, smile at others as they go by, and wish them “Happy Holidays!” once they make eye contact.
Hide a surprise. Put a cookie plate or box of chocolates in the mailbox for your delivery person. Put the flag up or post a sticky note on the box to let them know it’s in there.
Consider ongoing giving. Together, come up with ways your family can give year-round. Charities are often flooded with donations around the holidays but could use more support during the rest of the year. Spring and early summer are common dry periods for food banks.
Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina loves the feeling she gets from giving throughout the holiday season as much as she enjoys the feeling of receiving. And her family has become more generous as a result of her example.
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