24 Simple Ways to Make a Difference this Holiday Season

Written by on November 20, 2014 in Pathways, Self-Care

Make a Difference

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 spread laterally to affect an even greater number of people who come in contact with the original recipient of the gesture?

Can you imagine the difference we could make in the world if every person made room this season for even a single meaningful act of kindness?!

The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.
~Oscar Wild

We began this 2-part series looking at the benefits of recycling cell phones, so let’s kick off today’s list of simple ways to make a difference this holiday season with another example of how recycling can make a difference in people’s lives.

284 Million Reasons to Recycle Eyeglasses

According to the World Health Organization, there are over 284 million people around the world who do not have access to, or who cannot afford, vision care. For those of you here in the U.S., you may not be aware that visual impairment is considered to be one of the ten most frequent causes of disability.

For children, vision loss can lead to failure in school, delays in development, learning disabilities, and even juvenile delinquency. For adults, uncorrected vision can lead to unemployment and the inability to support a family.

The good news is your old, unwanted and unused eyeglasses can give someone else the gift of sight and it’s easier than you might think to donate.

  • The following optical centers offer recycling: WalMart, Target, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, and Sears.
  • Lions Club International has been sponsoring the Give the Gift of Sight program for over 80 years. Give your local chapter a call for the location of the nearest drop box.

23 More Simple Ways to Make a Difference

(Note: For your convenience where a specific organization is referenced there is a hyperlink to their home website.)

*Homeless shelters often need toiletries and inexpensive samples are a perfect size. Items needed include shampoo, soap, toothpaste and toothbrush, and deodorant, disposable razors for shaving, lip balm, sun block, and lotion.

*You could offer a couple hours of free babysitting to young parents who may not have the money to pay a sitter.

*Organizations such as Wounded Warrior Project, Soldier’s Angels, and Any Soldier 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, sending holiday care packages and how you can adopt a soldier.

Our days are so much happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind.
~Author Unknown

*Give another driver that prime parking spot you’ve had your eye on. (Go on, suck it up and do it –if nothing else it’ll be worth it to see the look on the other driver’s face!)

*Donate canned food to your local food bank. Grocery stores and libraries often set up boxes near their entrances for the holiday collection of canned goods and non-perishable items, and schools run food drives during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

*And if you’re donating food please consider including a bag of dog or cat food for pets … or you can donate pet food directly to your local humane society.

*You could offer to take an elderly friend, neighbor, or family member out on errands or – if you’re really brave – Christmas shopping.

*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 ages 0-18 who are seriously ill or traumatized through the gifts of new, handmade blankets, quilts, and afghans, lovingly created by volunteers.

*Write notes of appreciation to people you regularly come in contact with who don’t normally receive recognition … cafeteria workers, janitors, doctor, nurse, pastor, mailman, etc.

*Donate your old computer. Certified recycler InterConnection.org recycles desktop and laptop computers for low-income families and students, schools/libraries, and disaster relief. They have locations nationwide in the US and guarantee data sweep.

*Leave a book you have already finished somewhere for someone else to read. Tuck in a handwritten note with a holiday greeting and an invitation to read or pass it on.

*Pay a local teenager to mow someone’s yard who is elderly, sick or their spouse is away.

*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 travel size toiletries for the women are especially welcome. (One of my favorite holiday projects is to take a colorful small mesh gift bag, add sample sizes of lipstick, fragrance, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, then tie it with a pretty ribbon and drop a dozen or so off at our local shelter.)

*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.

*Participate in a 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.

*Angel Tree offers assistance to prison inmates and their children during Christmas. They give the children gifts on behalf of the parents along with a personal message.

*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 now I do it myself from time to time just to see the look on the recipients face!)

*Send a handwritten note with cookies or flowers to a teacher who has dedicated their life to educating children.

*Participate in a local toy drive. Even the smallest of gifts will put a smile on the face of a child who will not be receiving much for Christmas.

*Some residents of senior citizen 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.

*Police Officers and firemen 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 will be a touching and meaningful reward.

*Create a family tradition with your children of going through toys they no longer play with and donating them to charity or a needy family. This instills in your children early on the giving spirit of the holiday season.

*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.

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.
~Mother Teresa

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.

Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita Herald

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 Start Here.

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20 Reader Comments

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  1. This is an absolutely beautiful article that I will be sure to share. Giving of ourselves is how we truly live the amazing lives that we are meant to.
    Elise Cohen Ho recently posted…Baked Apple Delight with Coconut Whipped CreamMy Profile

  2. Arleen says:

    One of my employee’s husband had a heart attack. Knowing their financial situation and helped them out. I have always felt that the world is round and it does come back to you., Maybe not from the person you received but it will in other ways. Boy you sure came up with a lot great ways to make a difference
    Arleen recently posted…Marketing Lessons from Taylor SwiftMy Profile

  3. martyherald says:

    Glad you found the post inspirational Mark. Believe it or not there are actually many more low or no cost ways to help others, so it was a bit challenging to cut the list down to things I thought might have the widest interest level. As always, I value your thoughtful comments Mark.

  4. martyherald says:

    I’m so glad you found the information helpful Elayna and thank you for taking the time to contribute to the conversation. I love what you do over at your blog by the way. 🙂

  5. martyherald says:

    Glad you enjoyed the article Diane and thank you for sharing the 2 other tips. The parking meter is a great idea and but I had to laugh when I read it because we don’t have parking meters on the Island where I live so I guess it’s one of those out of sight out of mind things. 🙂 I’ve never heard of iGive but I will definitely check that out.

  6. martyherald says:

    Terrific example William and you know else is good to give homeless people, a genuine smile. More often than not people walk by and try to pretend they aren’t there. I was working in Japan a couple of years ago and walking with a client to lunch and there was a homeless man asking for change on the corner, my client actually put his hand up next to my face to block my view of the man so I wouldn’t have to look at him.

  7. martyherald says:

    Hey stranger it’s been a long time! I’m delighted to see you here an thrilled that you’re recycling those glasses. 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to contribute to the conversation and I look forward to jumping over to read your articles on boundaries!

  8. This is brilliant! It’s easiest for me to take action when something that feels ‘big’ is broken down into simple steps. I am recycling 10 pair of eyeglasses today. I’ve been thinking about doing it for 18 months, but acknowledging that the glasses that are just gathering dust in my drawer can be a ‘gift’ to someone else, is great incentive. I’m sure these suggestions will change this holiday season for many. Thanks!
    Allegra Sinclair recently posted…Why Your Lack of Boundaries is Killing YouMy Profile

  9. Giving without gain can be a very good thing..I once remember just giving a homeless guy £5 one day.. It meant nothing to me but the look the man gave me was out of this world..Any time you pass by someone less fortunate see if you can help them a little..
    They appreciate it.

    WILLIAM O’TOOLE recently posted…A little bit of encouragementMy Profile

  10. NT Izuchi says:

    Always looking to give back year round but particularly around the holiday season. People think it has to be about giving money but your time is the most valuable if your ask me. Great share!
    NT Izuchi recently posted…The Best Email Marketing Experience To Convert Your Leads To Thrilled CustomersMy Profile

  11. Diane Howell Topkis says:

    Thank you for the great list. As the giver you get as much as you give especially if it’s personal. Love your flower idea. I’ve been a big believer in writing notes especially to teachers. I wish now that I had written my doorman and others when I lived in NYC rather than just a card of money and a thanks.
    I have 2 more for you –
    1. put coins in someone’s expired parking meter. We get caught up shopping and can forgot to get back in time before a ticket.
    2. iGive.com – It’s a no-brainer. Enroll at the site and pick your favorite charity. I chose Transplant Support Organization to honor my friend Glenda. Any time you shop online at 1000+ stores, they donate a percentage to your chosen charity. Doesn’t cost you anything. Win-win.
    Diane Howell Topkis recently posted…Gratitude – Big Ben, Elvis, Bourbon and MomMy Profile

  12. This is such a wonderful list of ways to lift someone else and all within anyone’s reach. You are such a beautiful soul, Marquita! I’m so sharing this!
    Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM recently posted…Turn Your Pain Into Your PurposeMy Profile

  13. Mark says:

    What an absolute fabulous list Marquita!

    Who would have thought there are so many practical and non complicated ways to make a positive difference in somebody else’s life.

    And it’s so interesting that you mentioned donating old eye glasses.

    I happen to know that one of my local vision care providers, used to offer the exact same recycling program for unwanted glasses.

    And of course I’ve always been meaning to participate.

    And now that you’ve shared those shocking stats about just how many people need direct access to some type of quality vision care program.

    And like you also mentioned and demonstrated, one extremely simple kind act, can and will go quite a long way to enrich others.

    Your list of 24 extremely practical suggestions and opportunities to give, really demonstrate just how many extremely viable and useful ways there are to make a positive difference in somebody else’s life!

    Thanks for sharing such an inspirational post M!
    Mark recently posted…How And Why Major Corporations Waste Tons Of Money On Totally Whack Advertisements!Part ThreeMy Profile

  14. Melissa says:

    Sometimes we forget our purpose when the holiday hustle and bustle take over. We are here to leave things better than we found them. Amen
    Melissa recently posted…Talk is Not OveratedMy Profile

  15. Sarit says:

    What a great list! Thank for this. My goal this holiday season is to volunteer and help (with my children) as much as we can.

  16. Suzie Cheel says:

    Love this Marty. The other day the NRMA repair guy was in despair as his mobile was flat and the delight on his face when I said here’s a car charger you can have. Had a spare on in our car. here in Australia I have just joined The Wake up project and just got kindness cards to share around. http://wakeupproject.com.au/. The delight I got after we had donated to a cause here that is raising money to build a shelter for the homeless has me releasing more of what i think i might use someday. thanks for making me smile on my Saturday xx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…More Art, More Abundance, More Creativity and More Self LoveMy Profile

  17. Marla says:

    Acts of kindness make me weepy Marquita – and it’s amazing how simply reading your post can make a person feel all warm and fuzzy without even doing anything 🙂

    Flowers at the checkout was one of my favourites that I would have never considered. And as you say, that can be shared any time of year.

    Inspiring as always – thank you 🙂
    Marla recently posted…This Could Be Your Biggest RiskMy Profile

  18. Joan Harrington says:

    Hi Marquita,

    So many simple ideas to make a huge difference this holiday season…..thank you for sharing these great ideas, as I am going to try a few of them, like the one you mentioned about giving someone flowers in the grocery store…..what a great way to make a difference in someones life not only in this holiday season but anytime 🙂

    Awesome share!
    Joan Harrington recently posted…Want A Blog That’s Thriving Not Just Barely Surviving?My Profile

  19. What a great list! You offer so many great ways to make a difference. The one that stood out for me is to offer a young couple to babysit and give them the opportunity to have a night out! I know this could be a winner for sure. Also to offer baked goodies to police officers, fireman sounds like a winner. I m tempted to print this list and try to accomplish as many kind acts as possible… ok..the list is now printing. It’s a start!
    Nathalie Villeneuve recently posted…FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASEMy Profile

  20. Chery Schmidt says:

    Hello Marty! I Love Love Love This article! Tis The Season My Friend! I am going to take a few of your suggestions and get started right away.

    I have so many books laying around, love the idea of adding a little enjoy the book card.. Sweet.

    I also have a few old computers sitting right here and never even thought about donating them, I am going to make a few calls and see if anyone can use them.

    I am also sharing this Awesome post, Thanks for sharing and DO have a Fantastic Holiday Season.. Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…A Success Mindset? It’s Your Choice! 10 More Positive AffirmationsMy Profile