What does the spirit of the holiday season mean to you? Is it about being with family and friends? Is it about giving of yourself? About sharing a meal with people that you seldom get to see? Or are there other altruistic answers you can offer? Answers you're supposed to give?
But that's not how most of us feel during the holidays. Most feel harried. That the holidays are too commercialized. That there's a lot of pressure to give give give. Or more realistically, buy buy buy.
Many can hardly wait until the new year so that it's all over!
Not very charitable, is it? But the honest answer for a lot of people is that the holidays are a time for dread.
What if instead of spending so much time braving the lines at warehouse department stores, buying stuff that people don't need or even want, we decide to give of ourselves?
What if instead of committing to purchasing so many gifts and running ourselves ragged, we look closer to home for ways to either be of service to someone or bring joy into someone's life?
And what if we got the entire family involved?
There are 21 days left before Christmas day. Plenty of time to be of service in some way. Here's an idea that might help bring back the true spirit of the holiday season.
Make two lists.
The first one is a list of people you would like to help or offer appreciation in some way. This could be family members. Co-workers. Friends. Neighbours. Others within your community.
The second is a list of all the various ways you can be of service or bring joy into someones life. Here are 21 ideas to get you started:
1. ___ Bring coffee to someone you wouldn't normally bring it to.
2. ___ Pay for coffee for the person behind you in the drive thru.
3. ___ Bake a batch of cookies for your neighbours.
4. ___ Gather up clothing and blankets you no longer use but are still usable and drop them off at goodwill.
5. ___ Go through your pantry and fill a bag with canned and non-perishable items to donate to the food bank.
6. ___ Arrange for a food bank drive in your neighbourhood or at work.
7. ___ Invite someone you normally wouldn't to your home for a meal.
8. ___ Offer to pick up groceries for a neighbour or friend.
9. ___ Put on an amateur hour with your children or grandchildren and invite the neighbours.
10. ___ Have an arts and crafts day with your children or grandchildren.
11. ___ Shovel your neighbours driveway or sidewalk.
12. ___ Write anonymous "sugar cubes" to people you know--brief notes of loving sentiments (i.e. you are loved, you are appreciated, you are kind & compassionate, thank you for being you, etc).
13. ___ Write letters of gratitude to people you appreciate and tell them why you appreciate them--make them personal, not generic.
14. ___ Arrange a neighbourhood cookie exchange where each bakes a different type of cookie, then swap cookies among all the participants.
15. ___ If you sing, record yourself on your computer or digital device, then send the recording to people you care about.
16. ___ Make a gingerbread house, then give it away.
17. ___ If you have extra money this holiday season, adopt a family through your local food bank.
18. ___ Offer to sit for a friend's children or your own grandchildren to give the parents romantic time alone.
19. ___ Spend some time with someone you know is lonely. If not someone you know, consider volunteering at a local nursing home.
20.___ Volunteer at a local shelter, food bank or other community outreach charity.
21. ___ Offer to be the designated driver for a group of people going out for the evening.
Now marry up the first list with the second. Start with just one or two, then see how that goes.
Don't limit yourself to the holidays. Spread it out over the whole year. And by all means, add to the second list. Or modify it. Be creative.
Make sure to get young children involved too. Not just the adult family members. It's a perfect opportunity to teach them values. A perfect opportunity to teach them how to help others without the expectation of getting something in return. Other than the joy of giving.
You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. ~John Bunyan