By Amy Jacquez
The stores are adorned with red, green and gold decor. Christmas carols are playing on every speaker. Hints of cinnamon, apple and freshly cut pines are flowing through the air. Children’s eyes are twinkling with happiness and delight. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it?
Many people are wrapping gifts for loved ones, last-minute shopping and mailing off Christmas cards, but in a time of such rush and chaos, does it really feel like the season of giving?
Aside from giving gifts to the ones who mean the most to us, there are a number of ways we can give back to our local community and those who are in need.
When thinking about giving back this season, choose something you can do with your family to help someone else. There are many opportunities that children and adults can do together.
One of the simplest ways to give back is to shop local. Every town has small businesses that are locally owned, and many of them carry unique gifts to help mark off that wish list. By shopping local, you ensure more money is kept inside your community for schools, public works, outreach and other local agencies.
Volunteering is a great way for an entire family to give back. Taking a few hours out of a Saturday to help a good cause make a huge impact on the community. Check with your local animal shelter about walking and interacting with the animals or to cleaning around the facility. If you are not an animal lover, try local mission centers and soup kitchens. In the winter, they are almost always beyond capacity and could use all the extra hands they can get. Help serve hot meals, hand out warm drinks or simply offer an ear to listen.
On the nights the missions open as cold weather shelters, help set up cots and hand out blankets for the homeless.
Along with volunteering, missions are always open to donations for everyday items. Animal shelters could always use dog and cat food as well as linens, which are used in kennels to give animals a soft, warm spot to sleep while waiting on their forever home. Local mission centers need canned goods, water, paper plates, paper and plastic cups, hygiene items, paper products, warm gloves, hats and socks, just to name a few.
During the holidays, local and national charities are pushing their donation drives. This is the biggest time of the year for these charities, and many of them rely on donations from their supporters.
When you donate to a charity, you can choose exactly what you want to support and exactly how much you are willing to give.
Simple, random acts of kindness are small ways of giving back this season and every day of the year. The list of kind things to do is endless. To name a few:
- Let someone ahead of you in line at the grocery store or help someone load groceries into their car.
- Make a visit to the local nursing homes just to listen to stories of times past from some of the residents. Sometimes, all they need is a kind ear to listen and a smiling face to brighten their spirits during the holidays.
- While baking your holiday treats, make extra and visit the police, fire, EMS or rescue stations and surprise them with homemade goodies while saying a quick thank you for their service and duty.
- Invite a new neighbor over for the holiday festivities.
Choosing to give back to the community is a great way to celebrate the holiday season. If you’re able, make it a family affair and get everyone involved. You may even start a new tradition that will be passed on for generations all while helping great causes during the season of giving.