Thanksgiving and Christmas are some of my favorite times of the year because many are more focused on going out of their way to be nice to other people. I love that! You can nearly feel the love and the happiness wherever you go. Charitable works abound. When I say “charitable works” you are probably thinking “money”. Though that can be partially true, that’s not all. My favorite dictionary definition of “charity” is “Christian Love.” While money can be involved, there are certainly other ways that require no money at all and that can certainly make a huge difference to someone. The holidays, for some, can cause some major heartache. With that in mind, here are 10 ways that you can help to spread the love this holiday season.
“No act of Kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” –Aesop
- Angel Tree/Toys for Tots/Toy Drive
I admit, this one is fairly obvious and is many people’s go-to when giving is thought of during the holidays. Often times Angel Trees are there to greet you when you walk through the door of any major retailer. If you can afford it, and it is in your heart to do so, go for it! There is something fun and very Christmas-y about shopping for TOYS and envisioning a kid’s face light with joy on Christmas morning. If you still want to help this way, but do not have the funds for a whole angel, there are many places where you can donate money to go towards the Angel Tree or donate a single item to a toy drive or a Toys for Tots location.
- Food Drive
Just as Angel tree and toy drives abound at this time of year, so do food drives. In a nation where we have so much, it is very sad to me that 1 in 5 children go hungry. While anything that you donate is wonderful, consider throwing in a few things that kids can prepare themselves. For example, packages of crackers with peanut butter or cheese, instant mac and cheese containers, or cereal. Most food banks are usually in need of canned meat as well. I have a friend that is part of a backpack program sponsored by a local church, and according to her, it is not always the kids from low-income families that are going hungry. Sometimes it is the kids whose parents have the means, but not the time or inclination.
- Attend a community event
See what is going on in your community! Many communities have special things around the holidays, whether it is a church that is having a community meal or an organization that is collecting items for charity. Check your local community calendars. Call them ahead of time if you would like to help. Most will gladly accept! Even if you don’t want to help, then attend! It is a great way to meet other people in the community.
- Visit a Nursing Home
While there are many charitable efforts that are made to benefit children around Christmas time, sometimes elderly people in nursing homes feel forgotten. That is sad at any time, but especially at a time that everyone around them is enjoying family time, or that memories of better times haunt them. You can call the nursing home or the senior center and sometimes you can adopt an “angel” that is an elderly resident in a nursing home. Many of them do not want much. Some may want socks, or some favorite snack, or some just a visit. While that may seem like a small thing to you, it can mean the world to them.
- Make and Distribute Care Packages
Pick a place or group that you would like to benefit. Some ideas are hospitals, senior centers, nursing homes, our military personnel that is deployed, children’s hospital, foster children, inmates, or college students that are away. Many of the places that I just mentioned are places that most people would not be CHOOSING to spend the holidays at, but for some reason or another, they have to be there. Depending on the place and your audience, put together an appropriate care package. Dollar tree has some great ideas for items here. As well as Pinterest. (I am on Pinterest as well. Come follow me – see the side link)
- Pray for someone specifically.
Even if you do not see someone very much, it does not mean that they are not thinking of you, or that you do not cross their mind. I was nearly brought to tears when one of my husband’s uncles looked me dead in the eye and said, “I pray for you, every night.” He did not know it since I usually did not see him regularly, but I had been going through some internal struggles. I had been praying for strength and patience and trying very hard to make sense of some things that were going on and trying to come to peace with them. I had felt nearly alone, and here he had been praying for me this entire time. He had been praying for me and asking things for me that I had been asking for myself. I had felt strength when I needed it and patience as well. The Lord hears the cries of his people. If you have time for nothing else, think of someone that you know, and pray for them specifically. Whether they know it or not, it will make a difference.
- Visit an Elderly Person
When I first wrote this one down, I was thinking elderly relative, but I realized it does not have to be limited to that. Many elderly people that are in poor health are bored. They are bored and sad and generally feel discouraged about life and very lonely. The lonely that I am speaking of is not just an “I miss you” lonely. It is a heart rendering terrible ache of loneliness. You know how you can help with that? Go see them. As a younger person, I was always scared that I would disturb someone’s day by going and visiting them or disrupt their plans. After seeing and being around more than one elderly person, though, their lives can get rather dull. Staring at the same wall day after day, trapped in the prison of their own houses, since many cannot get out and drive, and having no plans but watching the clock tick. That makes for a VERY long day, every day! Many do not have the instant connectedness that we have grown used to today. Internet? What’s that? Smartphone? Oh my, what in the world is that contraption?! Text? Can’t read the words, where did my keyboard go?? For them, being connected is face time; a good old-fashioned visit face to face. If you REALLY want to make their day, offer to take them to lunch.
- Phone a friend that you have not talked to in a long time.
We can be really great friends with someone and then we grow apart. Families move away from each other. You may be in a completely different state than your childhood friend that you now only keep up with on social media. Again, that does not mean that you don’t care about your friend anymore or that you do not think about them. Take the time to give them a call. Chat and catch up! Find out what is going on in their lives and tell them about yours. This will lift your spirit as well as your friend’s.
- Send holiday greetings
I know, in the past, this was all done with sending Christmas cards. Some people still do that, and I love getting Christmas cards in the mail! What I am NOT so great at, is finding the time to sit down and send them myself. There are many ways to do this, but the ways that come to my mind are to email everyone on your contact list. It’s easy and FAST. There is not a lot of effort when you can hit “send all” and everyone gets the same thing. The other way is to send a text. Again, like email, you can do this for a specific people on your contact list, or you can send a group text message. Either way, your friends will know that you have thought about them.
- Invite someone to your holiday gathering.
Do you know someone that has no holiday plans? Invite them over to share in yours! Feeding one more person at your family gathering might not be a big deal to you, but having somewhere to go and spend the holidays WITH other people may mean the world to someone. It is much better than sitting home alone. I know there is a very sweet man at our church that I invited to ours last year. He did not come, but I know I at least let him know that I cared and he knew that he was welcome. I will probably make the same offer to him again this year. He may not come, but even if the person does not come, you have at least let them know that you cared enough to invite them.
What are your favorite ways to spread the love at Christmas time? Leave me a comment below. I know that I have just barely scratched the surface and that the ideas are only limited by our imaginations.