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Give Thanks, Give Back

Thanksgiving is a day full of turkey, stuffing, gravy, loud family gatherings, football, too much pie, pounds of mashed potatoes, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, wine, and shopping. But let us not forget the most important part of thanksgiving: giving thanks. In the hustle and bustle of the holidays it’s easy to get caught up in presents, and food, family gatherings, decorating, and all the other trappings of the holiday seasons, but more than anything, Thanksgiving is supposed to be about gratitude. In the month leading up to Christmas, take some time to reflect on all that you have been given and try to give back to those who are in need this holiday season. Here are some easy ways to get involved and give back:

1.  Buy a gift for a giving tree.

Many churches have giving trees that list items that families would like or need this Christmas. My church growing up always had paper ornaments with the age and gender of the recipient and an item they would like for Christmas. Parents often asked for socks and outerwear, while their children asked for Barbies and trucks. If you don’t mind spending a little money, this is a great way to brighten someone’s Christmas.

2.  Volunteer at a soup kitchen.

Helping prepare meals for the homeless is a great way to offer your time. It’s great to donate food or volunteer in person. This is something you can do any time of the year, not just around the holidays.

3.  Go caroling.

If you love to sing or even just enjoy making people smile, go caroling around your neighborhood with your friends or family. Some of the local churches in our area donate any money they raise to charity.

4.  Help out at children’s Christmas events.

Our local carousel museum has Santa visits during weekends in December. Local high school students and college students often volunteer to dress up as elves and take pictures of families visiting Santa. You’ll make some kid’s day and it’s usually all-you-can-eat candy canes.

5.  Bake cookies for nursing home residents.

My aunt always bakes dozens and dozens of cookies for local nursing home residents. She decorates them all with festive icing and sprinkles. She then spends a few hours delivering her cookies and visiting with residents. Sometimes my cousins go with their small children and the residents are always so happy to watch the children play and have someone listen to their stories. If you love to bake, just make double batches and donate half your cookies. Don’t forget to spend some time chatting with the residents.

6.  Help wrap presents.

A lot of organizations that collect toys for children need help wrapping the presents before they distribute them. Some groups, like Toys for Tots, have wrapping sessions where you can volunteer. I also know that there are usually different groups that wrap books at Barnes and Noble. The money they raise often goes to fund their community programs throughout the year. Your parents may also appreciate a little help this Christmas, so be sure to offer to help them, too.

7.  Send Christmas cards.

I love sending Christmas cards to my family and friends. It’s a great opportunity to tell everyone just how much I appreciate them and it’s a good way to meaningfully update people you don’t see very often on your life. A text or phone call is nice, but a handwritten note is especially touching. A lot of groups also send Christmas cards to troops, which is another great way to say thank you to the people who are away from their friends and families this season keeping us safe.

These are just a few ways you can get involved this holiday season. Take some time to be grateful for all you have this holiday season. Give back in whatever ways you can. And if you get a chance, light a candle at the grotto in thanks for all you have and for all those in need, or who are hurting this time of year.  

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Maria Fahs

Notre Dame

Maria is finishing her Masters in English at Notre Dame. She has read many good books and several bad books, but she usually tries not to finish those. Her current favorites are: 1984, The Book Thief, The Tragedy Paper, Code Name Verity, Dr. Copernicus, I Am the Messenger, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and of course, Harry Potter. She is writing her second thesis on Harry Potter, exploring notions of authorship and reader agency in the digital age. She even managed to write her Capstone on British Children's Literature and designed her own Directed Readings Course on Notre Dame history during undergrad. Her favorite way to read is with a mug of tea and scented candles. When she doesn't have her nose stuck in a book, she can be found binging on the BBC (Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Merlin [RIP]). Her favorite color is purple, she studied abroad in London, and she enjoys being an amateur painter. She harbors a not-so-secret dream of one day writing a children's book, but until then, she is likely to be found reading them and writing letters whenever she gets a chance. She hopes to teach English or work in a university sharing her love of education.
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