If I’m being real, which who are we kidding, I always am. Hold back? Never! But if we are continuing to be real, I questioned whether it was worth my time to write this post. It seems like such obvious information. What good would it really be doing anyone? Conversations with myself. Typical.
Then I remembered, what is obvious to one person is not always so to another. I have realized things about myself this year that I can’t believe I didn’t recognize sooner. It was all so surface level… until it wasn’t. I talked about these realizations a bit in my post about volunteering, and again in my post about becoming more empathetic, and likely 800 times separate of those.
I feel like this year is really about, like the year of just realizing stuff. And everyone around me, we’re all just realizing things.
Pop culture reference. 10 points to the person who caught that.
Anyways, at the end of the day I thought, what harm could it do to place a simple reminder out into the world to do good? We need more of that. So here we are.
This post was inspired by my family’s traditions.
There I was, driving in my car, thinking about how excited I was to partake in our annual Christmas traditions. It occurred to me that not everyone does what we do (Duh, Tara.) So why not share, eh?
Last year I gave you a sneak peek into one of our Christmas traditions, but that’s a selfish tradition, for lack of a better word. It’s something we do to encourage bonding and relaxation with our family during such a hectic time of the year. But with that, I don’t think I’ve ever shared how we give back during the holidays.
I’m not sharing this as a means to boast. Ew. In fact, that’s probably why I’ve put this post off. But I want to give you some ideas of things you can do to give back, inspired by our annual traditions. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved with charity, but for now I am going to stick to the six that we do on any given year in hopes that it will inspire you to do the same.
These ideas range in costs with some being solely the cost of your time, and others that will put you out minimally, but will have a major impact on your heart and the heart of others.
Let’s dive in.
[ “Adopting” a child or family ]
Every year during the holidays there are organizations that gather information regarding children and/or families in the community who have fallen upon hard times and could use a little Christmas cheer. These organizations typically ask these individuals for a list of a few items they would be happy to receive from people in the community.
I have been doing this since I was a member of Key Club in high school and let me tell you; every year I am still surprised to see what I see. Very few times do people ask for toys and/or material goods. More times than not it’s a child asking for pajamas, or a parent asking for a nice outfit they can wear to an interview.
The great thing about this option is that you can spend as little or as much as you are able. Most organizations will limit the request to one item or a monetary limit. If you have the means you can simply take multiple children/families and buy according to your budget.
Typically you can find these lists at a local church or police department. Hospitals often have lists as well for their patience who are required to stay long term and are burdened by medical bills. In addition, oftentimes public schools will have a list of students in need. Most of these organizations will keep the personal information of the family private, but will allow you to pick a family based on age, necessity, etc.
This is such a good way to foster gratitude and charity in our own children. My children look forward to shopping for a child their own age every year. They feel like they can understand what a child their age wants and they get excited to know that they are gifting another child with some of their own favorite things!
[ Buying a stranger coffee ]
This charitable deed is the most effortless of the bunch.
Most of us visit the drive through during the week to buy a little pick-me-up, so it takes zero effort for us to do a good deed by purchasing coffee for another customer. This is not necessarily “charitable” in the typical sense, but it is a good way to put out good energy into the world and encourage others to “pass it on.”
A few tips if you want to do this but you are afraid of the bill that might come with it:
- Don’t be afraid to ask the cashier what the person behind you has purchased. They will be happy to tell you. Then you can decide if the total is within your budget.
- Donate a set amount of money. Tell the cashier you would like to place a set amount towards the order behind you. If the person behind you spends more than that cap, you have helped them with at least part of their order. If they don’t use the donation in full, you can request for the remaining to be used throughout the car line. It is possible that a greedy employee could pocket your money. I like to tell myself that if that were to happen anywhere I give my money, that person must need it more than me. You can still feel good about the energy YOU put out into the world.
- Choose the establishment that most aligns with your budget. Typically a Starbucks order is going to be more expensive than a Dunkin Donuts order. Choose a place that you feel confident won’t put you out too much if you don’t have a lot to give.
In short, one small deed can help improve someone else’s day and hopefully you will have created a domino effect that will continue to spread joy and encourage others to give selflessly.
[ Bake cookies for your local public safety personnel ]
This may be my children’s favorite activity because they get to eat the cookies…. It’s also one of my favorite activities to do with them!
What we do is bake a bunch of cookies from scratch, pack them up in Christmas themed disposable food trays, make cards, and deliver them to our local police station.
Every year our officers are pleasantly surprised by our delivery and the kids are ecstatic to be greeted by officers in uniform who sit and talk with them about their job.
We stick to our police officers for now, but you can branch out to firefighters, EMT, service members, or anyone else who works to make your community a safer place!
[ Volunteer your time ]
As you’ve probably figured out by now, I spend a lot of my time volunteering at my local animal shelter. 2018 was a really difficult year and my heart was called towards volunteer work. I wanted to volunteer somewhere that I knew would become my peaceful escape.
I find comfort in animals, therefor the shelter made sense.
However, during the holidays especially, many organizations are desperate for volunteers. This is of no cost to you but can make a huge impact on the lives of someone in need.
Places to consider: animal shelters, food pantries, the YMCA, National Parks, the library, senior centers, etc.
[ Donating to a toy drive ]
This one requires a bit more of your time and money, but it’s an easy way to give back without having to commit to being physically present with an organization.
Like I shared earlier, in my experience, children in need typically ask for necessities such as clothing, shoes, and hygiene products. Very rarely do they ask for something they want. What I love most about a toy drive is that I can purchase something I would purchase for my own children, drop it in a box, and know that a child is receiving something extra and fun!
An added bonus: there’s no expectation of spending limits. You can spend as much or as little as you want, anonymously, without any guilt or shame associated with it.
[ Pay off a layaway account ]
Every year families are pinching pennies and stretching every dollar they can to create a magical Christmas for their families and friends. Never mind the fact that many people are overextending their budget, creating debt for the sake of gifts.
It’s no surprise that layaway accounts are at an all time high during the holidays. If you aren’t aware, a “layaway account” is an account in which a store will hold an item for a consumer until the consumer is able to pay off all of the necessary payments for said item.
If you have the means, you have the opportunity to shock and delight a family who has had to use the layaway program to purchase Christmas gifts by paying off a customer’s debt.
This one is dear to my heart because I remember growing up watching my mom, a single mother, plan how and when she was going to buy Christmas gifts for her four children. She heavily relied on layaway for many years and I can only imagine the shock and relief she would have felt had someone paid off her debt.
Store employees won’t share personal information, but they are typically willing to give you information regarding the smallest and largest accounts. From there you can act according to your budget.
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Of course these are only a few ways you can help others during the Christmas season, but I am hoping that this list inspires you to give back, however you are able, without the pressure of shelling out a ton of money.
My family has had years where we’ve struggled, and years when we’ve haven’t. Regardless, I have always done something because it feels good to give back and it has been a learning opportunity for my children who will hopefully carry on the tradition into their adulthood with their own families!
I’d love for you to share ways to give back in the comment section. I’m always open to new ideas!