This year I’ve noticed something a little unusual on social media. With each passing day, there are more and more posts by people who can’t seem to get into the spirit of Christmas. Now, I know not all of you celebrate Christmas, but since I do, this is something that’s caught my attention.
It seems there are more than a few people who aren’t interested in decorating, baking, shopping, going to parties, hosting parties, singing carols, you name it. And many of them say the same thing: this year they just aren’t interested. Their apathy reminds me of a short story I read online recently by Nancy W. Gavin (to read the wonderful story yourself, click here). The story is about a man who didn’t like the commercialism of Christmas. He thought it was all too much– too much money, too much stuff, too much everything. So his wife came up with a solution. Every year she secretly invested in one thoughtful gift which would benefit a person or a group of people who were in need of help. Eventually, that one gift, which she shared with him and their children on Christmas morning in a white envelope tucked among the branches of the Christmas tree, became the gift the family most looked forward to opening.
Reading the story got me thinking about the post I wanted to write for today’s blog. With Christmas just ten days from tomorrow, time is getting short for buying stuff, having it shipped, wrapping it, etc. But ten days is plenty of time to think about opportunities out there for giving to those who are in need. Today’s post highlights just a few places you can visit online and in person to give a helping hand.
First, start local. Many communities have food banks which always need donations of food, toiletries, and school supplies. In my community, the grocery stores, churches, schools, and other organizations have food drives. Many of those same institutions also have “mitten trees,” which don’t collect just mittens, but all kinds of cold weather gear, including hats, gloves, scarves, and even coats.
Second, many local organizations have an angel tree, sometimes called a giving tree. Instead of ornaments hung on the tree, there are tags with the gender, age, size, and a few wish list items of a person in need (usually a child, but not always). You simply take one or more tags, pick up a gift or two for the person on the tag, and return the gifts, usually unwrapped, to the place where you got the tag. These angel trees are a great way to help families who might not otherwise be able to provide their children with any Christmas gifts.
Third, go online and find a charity that needs your help. Some people like to give to the same charity every year, some like to mix it up a little. Whichever you prefer, there are about a gazillion charities to choose from. A good place to start is Give Well, which gives online visitors a primer in charitable giving. A valuable site if you want to make a charitable donation is Charity Navigator, which has a pretty cool tool for rating charities from around the world. The navigator scores charities based on objective data on financial performance, accountability, and transparency.
So now that I’ve listed the basics I think are important, let me suggest a few places which could use your help.
How about an organization which provides service animals? Check out 4 Paws for Ability.
Want to help defeat cancer? Check out Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
Disaster relief? Try International Relief Teams.
There are so many organizations out there that need help, not only at this time of year, but every single day. I encourage you to check out Charity Navigator to have a look at the sheer number of charities seeking financial assistance.
And if you can’t provide financial assistance, how about reading holiday favorites to kids at the local library? How about visiting a nursing home and offering to play carols on the piano for residents? How about volunteering to ring the bell for the Salvation Army? There are lots of things you can do without having to open your wallet if you can’t do that this year.
If your holiday spirit has gone missing or if it just needs a kick-start, try visiting some of the places I’ve mentioned. Because sometimes it’s the act of helping others that puts people in the spirit of Christmas. After all, that’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? And if you find that missing holiday spirit? Share it with someone!
Until next week,
P.S. Show an author some holiday love! Is there a local author you like? Contact him or her and ask to buy an autographed copy of one or more books. I guarantee that author will be thrilled to accomodate you! And ahem, I know of one author in particular whose books make great gifts, in my humble opinion. Here’s her website, check it out: amymreade.com. Just sayin’.