The holidays are considered the "Season of Giving," but many of us feel too overwhelmed during this time to do the good deeds we intend to. Making a plan to do good after the holiday hustle and bustle has ended not only helps you extend your warm holiday glow, it provides support when people still need it most.
As I write this, we’re in the middle of yet another Black Friday. As companies struggle to get customers in the door earlier and earlier every year, it feels like the holiday of Thanksgiving is in danger of being consumed faster than the meal itself. And yet, research continues to confirm what our parents always told us: ‘tis better to give than to receive. The fact is, gratitude and giving increase our well-being in countless ways. But it’s hard to find time to do as much as we wish we could, especially during the holidays.
With so much pressure to do (and buy!) as much as we can in the few short weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, “the spirit of the season” becomes a bit of an afterthought. So why not make a plan to keep that spirit alive even after the holidays are officially over, when the busy glow of the holidays gives way to the bleak reality of another few months of winter?
Here are 10 suggestions that combine giving back with real, actual fun. Plan ahead and make a resolution to beat the post-holiday blues this year, and extend your holiday glow during the long winter ahead.
Doing Good Together is a wonderful organization that provides simple ideas and projects to get you and/or your whole family giving back. Examples include: putting together birthday boxes for homeless children, baking treats for shelter pets, or picking an endangered animal mascot for your family. Even though this organization is intended for families with children, the projects are so fun and accessible, they’re perfect for any busy person looking for quick ways to make a big difference.
Give to a Podcast or Artist: Ask yourself: what would your world be like without the art, music, and entertainment that inspires you? Art enriches our lives, and yet, most artists aren’t able to make a sustainable income. The best way to support the art or music you love is to buy it straight from the artist. Or, check to see if your favorite artist has a Patreon account. Patreon is a membership service for podcasters, musicians, and artists that allows them to collect dues from their fans, often in exchange for exclusive content. It's a great way to give back, while getting more from the artists you love!
Garden to do good: The dead of winter is the perfect time to let your thoughts wander to blooming flowers and sprouting seeds! No matter the size of your yard, you can benefit the environment by planting pollinator-friendly plants, a rain garden, or even your own urban/suburban forest. Or, set aside a corner of your existing garden just for veggies to donate to your local food shelf.
Raise money by getting fit: Why not combine two of your New Year’s resolutions and plan to participate in a charity walk, run, or bike ride? An internet search will give you lots of choices to fit your interests and activity level.
Adopt a senior: According to AdoptASenior.com, 50% of the 3 million seniors living in nursing homes don’t have family to visit them. Nobody should have to face old-age alone, and there are many great programs with lots of ways to help – from providing gifts during the holidays to visiting an “adopted” senior throughout the year.
Throw a party to make care kits for the homeless: Instead of the usual holiday parties with White Elephant or Secret Santa gift exchanges, why not make your gift-giving really count by throwing a party to pack care kits for homeless neighbors? The idea is this: each attendee is responsible for bringing a certain number of one type of item: energy bars, travel-sized toothpaste, socks, etc. Then, you get your group together to sort the items into bags while you socialize, eat, and make-merry as usual. Guests can keep finished kits in their cars, to hand through the window when they encounter someone in need. Or, they can be donated to shelters or other organizations providing services to the homeless.
Participate in a clothing swap: Clothing swaps present a great way to clean out your closet and pick new-to-you items, and whatever isn’t claimed is donated to a worthy cause. I love hosting clothing swaps each spring and fall in support of Ready for Success (stay tuned by visiting the 50 Fun Things event calendar where the swaps get posted as we get closer to the season).
Host an international student: My family has hosted several international students over the years. It is such a rewarding way to learn about a new culture while providing a safe, supportive space for students to learn when they're so far from the comforts of home.
Use your unique skills: Sometimes it can be tough to know where you can do the most good. Perhaps the best way to start is to examine what you’re good at, and share your gifts with an organization that needs exactly what you have to offer. VolunteerMatch.org is the perfect place to search for volunteer opportunities that fit your skillset and availability.
Don’t get overwhelmed! The news provides us with new reasons to feel scared and powerless every day, and it’s no wonder that many of us feel frozen, like we can’t possibly do enough to make a positive impact. Don’t despair. Instead, remember these words from Mother Teresa: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” If everyone gave just a little bit more, the world would change in a big way.