As I stand in the stores in December, I find myself beginning to resent this time of year. It’s not that I resent the people swirling around me in boisterous blobs, but moreso the stress of the scramble. The stress of finding that perfect present to make Christmas (or whatever holiday you celibrate) perfect, or braving the Hunger Games of stores at the mall in December. It’s easy to forget what the holidays are about and what is important. I don’t want to have to stress myself out to have the perfect Christmas, but after a quick phone call with my mom, she reminded me what was really important about the holidays: giving back. I have compiled the 6 main things that we talked about and how to get involved in your community and really make a difference in someone’s life.
1. Volunteer for a Community Service Project
There are a number of ways to volunteer for your community; I actually recently volunteered at a holiday party for special needs people, and I had the best time doing it. I have even volunteered in abused women’s/children’s shelters, and I can tell you that there is nothing more rewarding than helping a kid make a Christmas tree orniment and she loves you so much for it that instead of putting it on the tree, she gives it to you. There are, of course, oodles of other oppurtunities for volunteering in foodbanks, rescue missions (ex. Raleigh Rescue Mission), with salvation army, or a homeless shelter. There are generally one of these in every town, but if yours doesn’t have one, I’m sure you can go to the next town over. Raleigh has one of the biggest Rescue Missions that help provide for people who do not have the ability to do it for themselves.
2. Bake for local service people (like firemen, police, EMS, nurses, doctors etc.).
My mom and I like to do this around the holidays. We like to bake cookies together and because we physically can not eat 64 cookies, we will donate them to hospitals with nurses and doctors, or to a police station, and even a fire station. The looks that we have gotten from Police Officers means the world to us, and I know that we made their day. I think it’s especially important to donate food or cookies to people in service right around Christmas because they aren’t able to spend the day with their families. If it would make you happy, it would make them happy.
3. Donate to a Charity or Special cause
There are so many charities and special causes that exist today. My advice would be to pick the one that you think is the most worthy and donate what you can. What you donate doesn’t have to be money, you could buy gifts for families in need (“Adopt a Family”), donate to a food bank, write letters to the troops, donate to Toys for Tots, donate coats or books for kids. Adopt a family is something that you can find in a social services office or in places that know families, like churches, malls, or hospitals or other places that help families in need. And essentially what you (and maybe your family) would do is find gifts for the family for Christmas because they can not afford gifts.
This time of year, it is also important for our troops to know that we are in support of them because they will most definitely be missing their families, so writing letters to them is a great way to get involved and to support our troops in a way that doesn’t hurt your wallet. If you wanted to donate to a charity or to another special cause, and you know that it would make one of your family memebers happy that you did, you could even make your donation in honor of them and as their Christmas present.
4. Create a basic needs bag to give to the homeless
In the winter, times get especially tough for the homeless in our society. Some may not have a family to see, or even a toothbrush to clean their teeth. This is why to make a difference to a homeless person’s life, you could create a bag that is full of things like toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash, soap, a McDonald’s gift card, and maybe even a $5-10 blanket. For women you could include feminine products and a hairbrush. Surprisingly, suicide rates skyrocket in this time of year because it is so difficult for some people to get through, and making a bag like this for someone who literally has nothing is such a gesture of kindness that they can finally clean their teeth and be warm that it gives meaning to the scramble of this time of year.
5. Donate pet food/toys to animal shelters
Of course, people are not the only ones who have a rough time in this time of year. There are many animal shelters that could use the donations of pet food, toys, collars, or really anything for dogs and cats. Shelters will often be happy to recieve some kind of donation, and the puppies and kitties will love it.
6. Pay it forward
This is something that has never happened to me, but it has happened to my mom and she has done it for others: paying it forward. What the phrase essentially means is that when you’re in line to get food in a drive thru or in a fast food place, you pay for the person’s food that is behind you in line so they get it for free. Often this happens to people on the days that they need in the most, and they are the most grateful for it. The same goes for a restaurant. If you were sitting in a restaurant and saw a couple that looked like they might need some help, or maybe a family, you could pay it forward by paying for their food.
Hopefully, you see something here that you could do this year to help make this world a better place. I say things about resenting the holidays, but it’s really the commercialized aspect of it, where everyone is concerned about matierial things instead of being thankful that they have the ability to even think about material things. It’s important to remember that your mental health is more important than having a perfect Christmas. Your family will understand if you couldn’t find the perfect pair of earrings as long as you are okay. Let’s make the world a better place this holiday season. Happy Holidays!