During the holidays, it’s easy for kids to lose track of what’s really important. It’s essential to teach them about different ways to give back to the community through generosity and action.
There is no better time of year to find opportunities to give back to your community than at Christmas time. “See a need, meet a need.” My husband and I hope to turn this simple saying into a mantra for our family. We want our kids to have their eyes open to what needs there may be around them. We also want them to have the willingness to do what they can to meet those needs.
It may be as simple as picking up a piece of litter. It may be a little more challenging, like giving up an extra toy to give to someone else. We want to be intentional in raising kids that are not inward-focused, but are compassionate and empathetic. It can be hard for kids to realize that different people have different life experiences. Finding ways to help give back to our community during the holidays can help us reach these goals.
Be a Giver
Buying gifts for children in need is one place to start. There are several organizations that participate in this: Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, as well as most Children Protective Services offices and even some schools. Many places also have coat and hat drives. Our library is having a book drive to distribute books to children in the foster care system. Other places to check to see what needs they may be helping to meet this holiday season include churches, hospitals, and fire departments.
Give Your Time
There are times when money is tight and buying a bunch of extra gifts is just not in the budget. There are still other ways to give back. This year our local Meals on Wheels has an opportunity for people to donate homemade Christmas cookies that they then pass out to their clients. Many community centers and homeless shelters have opportunities for you to help serve a holiday meal or deliver care packages to families. Baking treats and making small homemade gifts or ornaments to give to friends and neighbors a great way to just let someone know you are thinking of them. Think about someone you know who maybe doesn’t have a lot of family close by and would really appreciate knowing that you care.
Give the gift of friendship. Sometimes just being present in someone’s life is the greatest gift. Do you have a favorite holiday activity? Invite someone to go with you. My family had another family that we just barely knew at the time invite us to go to a live nativity that was one of their yearly traditions. It was very thoughtful and we really enjoyed it. Do you know someone who lost a loved one this year? Inviting them to do something with you or even just sending them a card to let them know you are thinking of them could go a long way in helping them fight the holiday blues that come after experiencing loss.
Joy throughout the Year
Don’t stop with serving your community during the holidays. Sometimes the hardest part of serving is just knowing what you can do. Follow your local women’s shelter, homeless shelter, or animal shelter on social media. They will often post simple but real needs such as “We need bleach,” or “We are out of size 3 diapers.” Spending an extra few bucks here and there throughout the year to drop off items where they are needed can make a lasting impact. In spring, many parks districts and communities have opportunities for litter clean up and gardening help.
Sometimes the hardest part of serving is just knowing what you can do.
I recently found out about another unique service opportunity. My daughter had an outpatient surgery at our local children’s hospital and she brought her doll along. While my daughter was getting changed and checked in, our nurse brought a cute bright colored hospital gown for her doll and said we could take it home with us. I looked at it and began to wonder where it came from so I asked our nurse. She told me that it came from their volunteers in the “sewing room.” I looked at their website and found that the “sewing room” at the hospital makes all kinds of things for the children there, from quilts and blankets, to doll hospital gowns, to therapy dog harnesses. I am looking forward to volunteering there with my girls as they get older and learn to sew because I think that is just a really neat idea. My daughter still plays with her doll and the hospital gown. That is just one little thing that can make having to go to the hospital a little less scary.
Have you ever had a really bad day and just one kind gesture from a stranger renewed your hope?
One Little Thing
In fact, it is often just one little thing that makes an impact in someone else’s life. Have you ever had a really bad day and just one kind gesture from a stranger renewed your hope? I have. And I have witnessed it first hand as well.
Last year around Christmas, I was waiting in line at our local Dollar General (which is the only store in my small town except a very small grocery), and a guy comes through the front door with a big cup of hot chocolate and hands it to the clerk. “Here you go, this is for you,” the man said. “For me?” she asked. “Yes, take it, it’s hot chocolate,” he said and he left.
She stood there a second not knowing what to do or say. The cashier told everyone in line that he had been in the store a little bit before and had bought hot chocolate and marshmallows. She had been teasing him and told him to bring her some because it was really cold working at the register by the door. Then he really did it and she just stood there and cried. She was so moved. She really just couldn’t believe someone would do that for her.
I hope I can see the needs around me and that I would be a person willing to drive a cup of hot chocolate back to a store to make someone’s day. My greatest hope is that my kids grow up learning to see other people and be compassionate, to offer kindness instead of discouragement. I hope that we all have the willingness to say “yes” to the opportunities we have to serve others.
About the All-Star Blogger:
Melanie is a home educator of her four children ages 6, 9, 10, and 12. Melanie’s background is in science and she has a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Before becoming a mom, she worked in biomedical research. Melanie has many interests and whether it is science, literature, history, art, or music, she enjoys learning alongside her kids and helping them discover new things about the world. Her kids participate in 4-H, Girl Scouts, horseback riding, piano, drums, and some sports. Melanie guards her family’s time and believes in leaving enough space in the schedule for rest and relationships.