The holidays mark a time when many of us feel inspired to share the joy of the season by making a positive difference in the lives of others, especially those less fortunate. After all, it’s a great feeling to know that, in some small way, you’ve been able to lift someone’s spirit and maybe even inspired a bit of hope and encouragement. And one of the most powerful gifts we can give doesn’t have to cost a dime.
Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver. ~Barbara de Angelis
Have you ever noticed how lending a helping hand improves the tone of your whole day? Did you know that a single act of kindness can extend as far as three degrees of separation (friend of a friend, etc.), and also spreads laterally to affect an even greater number of people who come in contact with the original recipient of the gesture? Kindness truly creates a powerful domino effect. Can you imagine the difference it would make in the world if every person made room each day for even one meaningful act of kindness?!
The truth is most people are kind, it’s just that sometimes we get so caught up in overloaded schedules and the noise of day-to-day living that we forget to take the time to look around and see where we might offer a word of encouragement or lend a helping hand to lighten someone else’s load … even a little. So today, I’d like to share with you my annual list of ways to make a difference and challenge you to include a few random acts of kindness in the remaining days of the holiday season.
Some of these will be familiar, a few may spark an idea for a project of your own, and many represent opportunities for spreading kindness in the New Year.
Perhaps we’re too embarrassed to change or too frightened of the consequences of showing that we actually care. But why not risk it anyway? Begin today. Carry out a random act of seemingly senseless kindness, with no expectation or reward or punishment. Safe in the knowledge that one day, someone somewhere might do the same for you. -Princess Diana
The Gift of Kindness Holiday Challenge
Donate canned food to your local food bank. Many families are experiencing tough economic times and I think we all agree that no child should have to go to bed hungry. Grocery stores and libraries often set up boxes near their entrances for the holiday collection of canned goods and non-perishable items, and many schools run food drives during the holidays. Here’s a link to Second Harvest and a list of the types of food most needed.
Create a family tradition with your children by going through toys they no longer play with and donating them to charity or a needy family. This is also a good time to recycle cell phones and even unwanted or unused eye glasses. As simple as this may seem, these are things that can literally make a life altering difference to someone else.
There are also many opportunities to donate new toys and make wishes come true. Participating in these acts of kindness as a family instills in your children early on the giving spirit of the holiday season.
Support our men and women veterans.
- Websites, such as Wounded Warrior Project, Soldier’s Angels, Any Soldier and Homefront Hugs USA provide enormous support to our men and women in the armed services. You’ll find a wealth of information on supporting military families during the holidays and how you can adopt a soldier.
- Join the legions of fans following the travels of Lon Hodge and Gander the Service Dog and their ongoing work to support veterans suffering from PTSD through Operation Fetch.
Help shelter animals. Of course our first priority is to do our best to find “forever” homes for shelter animals, but in the meantime shelters can always use dog or cat food. Many food banks will take donations for shelters or you can go directly to your local humane society.
And speaking of shelters, those concrete floors can get pretty hard and cold, especially during winter. Animal advocate Tracy Lystra who is one of our Everyday Heroes is sponsoring a fundraiser to provide raised beds for shelter animals and they’ve already been able to purchase 60 elevated beds and 300 blankets for local shelters.
If you’d like to learn more about Tracy’s project or contribute you can visit her GoFundMe page or follow her on Facebook at Saving Huey. (I encourage you to visit Huey’s page, just please be aware that while you’ll find no shortage of inspiring stories and images, Tracy is on a critical mission to end dog fighting and pulls no punches when it comes to the facts and images she shares about this cruel sport.)
Become a Blanketeer. Do you knit or enjoy making quilts? Consider becoming a “Blanketeer” for Project Linus. Their mission is to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill or traumatized through the gifts of new, handmade blankets, quilts and afghans, lovingly created by volunteers.
Write notes of appreciation. Yes, actually use real pen and paper to write a note of appreciation to people you regularly come in contact with who don’t normally receive recognition … teachers, cafeteria workers, janitors, doctors, nurses, your pastor, and especially the mailman!
I alone cannot change the world. But I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. ~Mother Teresa
Reach out to someone who’s elderly, sick or alone.
- Pay a local teenager to mow someone’s yard who is elderly, disabled or sick.
- Help shovel snow for an elderly neighbor OR if there’s no snow, offer to buy groceries for them so they don’t have to go out into the cold.
- Give a phone card. Perhaps you know a poor student or senior citizen who is struggling to pay their bills. The gift of a phone card will help them keep in touch with their loved ones and brighten their holidays.
- If you’re really brave, offer to take someone Christmas shopping!
Participate in a collection drive. We’re all familiar with food and toy drives but there are other types of drives we can support or sponsor.
- Winter coat drive. Many local churches and schools collect winter coats for adults and children to donate to needy families.
- Another option is a blanket drive for the homeless, needy families and elderly.
Give a “Just Because” gift. The next time you’re at the grocery store, include a small bunch of flowers in your order and after you’ve paid for your things, give the flowers to the person behind you in line. This has happened to me twice and it was such an amazing feeling that I now do it myself from time to time just to see the look on the recipients face!
Bake treats for service personnel. Local police officers, firemen and EMT staff work odd shifts and miss out on a lot of family time due to their jobs. Recognizing their great service to the community with a thank you and holiday baked goodies would be a touching reward.
Women’s shelters and youth and family services. Landing in a shelter for victims of abuse at any time is heartbreaking, but especially so during the holiday season. Donations such as toys for the children and toiletries for the women are especially welcome this time of year. A great group activity is to collect a quantity of sample size toiletries, make-up and even fragrance samples and make small holiday gift bags.
Visit a senior resident home. Some residents of senior homes have no family to visit them on a regular basis. Taking the time to bring them a baked item or sugar-free candy canes this holiday is a gesture they will greatly appreciate. If you belong to a church group that’s planning to go Christmas caroling consider including senior shut-ins.
Offer to babysit. It’s challenging enough to managing shopping when you have small children, but this time of year can create even more headaches. You could offer a couple hours of free babysitting to young parents who may not have the money to pay a sitter.
Invite a loner to your house: Why not invite a coworker or neighbor who has no one to celebrate with to your home for the holidays? Your selfless invitation will mean the world to that person.
Give a virtual thank you. If you spend much time online chances are you follow at least a few blogs. Why not take a moment to leave a comment letting these hard working bloggers know you’ve enjoyed their articles and thank them for the inspiration, advice or whatever they’ve contributed to your life.
What would Christmas be without the Salvation Army’s red buckets and the ringing bells?! All those small donations add up to enable the Salvation Army to assist countless needy families, the homeless and the elderly.
Like more ideas? Read Do We Really Need a Holiday to Remind us to Be Kind and check out this great Pinterest board packed with ideas for acts of kindness – Holiday Service Projects and Acts of Kindness.
Of course there is one other thing we can do … we can resolve to be kinder, not just during the holidays, but every day of the year. If we do this, we will be doing our part to create a world in which kindness is not merely a selfless act reserved for the holiday season, but rather a way of life.
I’d love to hear from you! Please consider sharing acts of kindness that you’ve received or kindnesses that you’ve instigated in the comments section below.
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald
Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.
She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.
To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click “here“.