Holiday promotions have been sneaking into our Facebook timelines and storefront windows for several weeks now.
It’s easy these days to become distracted by the commerce-driven hubbub of the season, so we thought we’d take a step back to reflect on the importance of gratitude and giving back to those less fortunate.
The holiday season encourages us to shop, spend, and acquire even more material goods. But let’s also remember to be grateful for the blessings that already fill our lives: our health, the food on our tables, the friends and family that surround us, and the ability to show appreciation for those blessings by sharing them with others.
Let’s all make an effort to prioritize demonstrating gratitude and goodwill this holiday season. Here are five simple tips on how to spread holiday cheer…
Welcome New Friends to the Table
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have loved ones nearby for the holidays. If you’ve ever traveled during the holidays or moved to a new place, then you probably understand how difficult it can be when you find yourself sitting down at a table to a holiday meal for one.
Some people might not even have the means to prepare a special holiday meal for themselves.
Holiday meals don’t have to be reserved only for our closest friends and family members. Opening up our homes to people who don’t have a place to go– from elderly neighbors and newcomers to the neighborhood to travelers– is a great way to make new friends and expand our circle of loved ones.
Give someone the gift of good company this season and you, too, will reap the rewards of conversation and camaraderie with someone new. We’ve been listening to Grandma’s story about how Grandpa once set the turkey on fire for the past decade. New faces and perspectives at a holiday party can be a welcome addition.
It’s a cliche, but so often true around the holidays: The more, the merrier!
Donate Used Items
Most of us have a stockpile of stuff that we never really use. From closets full of clothes we haven’t worn in years to garages full of things we’ve forgotten, many people could benefit from slimming down their collection of belongings.
Selling your stuff may be a great way to make a little extra holiday cash. But just think of the joy and appreciation you’d inspire in someone who could really use a new coat or shoes this holiday season!
Donating our used items is an excellent way to simplify our own lives while improving the lives of people in need. And when you scale back on stuff, you appreciate what you do have even more.
So if you have five winter coats clogging your hallway closet, ask yourself which one you really love and give the others away. There are a variety of places to donate used items:
• Women can donate business apparel to Dress for Success to help other women advance their careers by bettering their self-confidence.
• Soles 4 Souls accepts shoe donations to help poverty-stricken communities.
• Goodwill accepts donations of everything from furniture to books and clothes, and has donation centers across the country.
Donate Cash to Charities
With natural disasters and tragedies popping up far too often in our headlines these days, there are an overwhelming number of charities to consider. If you keep meaning to make a donation to a charity, the holidays are a great time to finally do so.
To make sure that your money is used to benefit the needy, do some research on the organization using third-party evaluations and ratings at sites such as the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and Charity Watch. These sites examine charities’ finances, governance and effectiveness to ensure that your donation isn’t lining the organizers’ pockets.
Cash always seems to be tight around the holidays. But just consider all of the money we spend on things we don’t really need. If we remember to have gratitude for the things we do have instead of a;ways wanting more, we can save our spending money for good causes instead of more stuff.
Volunteer Your Time
One of our favorite ways to demonstrate gratitude and goodwill is to volunteer.
Volunteering allows us to actively make a difference in other people’s’ lives. While donating money and gently used items is great, volunteering gives us a chance to connect with those we help on a deeper personal level, as well as those we work with.
If you’re looking to bring the family together this holiday season, volunteering is a fun way to spend time together while demonstrating both gratitude and goodwill. Maybe you’ll even start a new family tradition of volunteering with a local organization.
Let the kids pick a cause that means something to them, and they’ll learn all about the joy of helping those in need.
Give the Gift of Giving Back
If you have someone to shop for and just can’t put your finger on the perfect gift, consider giving the gift of charity. By donating to a worthy cause in someone else’s name, you give them the joy of helping others.
Gifts come and go every holiday season, and how often do we receive gifts that we rarely ever use? When we give the gift of giving back, we avoid the risk of buying something they already have or don’t need. Helping others is virtually guaranteed to provide a one-size-fits-all smile.
There are all types of charitable organizations that we can give to in our loved ones’ names, so pick a cause that will be particularly meaningful to the person you’re gifting. If they love animals, you could sponsor an animal from the World Wildlife Fund. If your loved one has a strong affinity for children, you could sponsor a child through World Vision.
As “Black Friday” descends upon the sale-starved masses, giving material things is easy. But if you’re wondering how to spread holiday cheer without feeding the mega-commerce monster, remember that giving back is a gift that keeps on giving all year long. –Britany Robinson
BIO: Britany Robinson is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her works appears in BBC Travel, Mashable, Green Global Travel, and more. Her blog, Travel Write Away, shares advice and musings on travel writing. When she’s not planning her next big trip, she’s scoping out Portland craft beers and local hikes.