Give Back During The Holidays: Remembering Why Doing For Others Matters So Much

Give Back During The Holidays: Remembering Why Doing For Others Matters So Much

Now that Thanksgiving has ended, now it is time that focus on Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas. The holiday season is in full swing, and people’s calendars fill with social events, work parties and plenty of shopping.

These are very special weeks on the American calendar, and giving presents to one another is part of the fun and magic of this exciting season.

But giving back to the community, to those whom you don’t know and organizations that would be lost without the donations of philanthropic people, is a huge part of the holiday season too. In this post, we offer some suggestions on how you and your family can make gestures that really count. Whether you do them solo or as a family, these actions make a profound difference to the well-being of other people and groups all year long.

1. Take the children for groceries, then make a donation at the local food bank.

It’s easy to forget how expensive it is to shop for all the special foods that are part of the holidays. Donating staples is a way to free up grocery money for families on a tight budget. Instead of having to buy pasta, tuna and other regular items, they can use their funds toward a fresh turkey or other mainstay of a holiday meal, because your donation has given them the staples. Doing this is a wonderful way to raise a child’s awareness of just how in need some people are. (A recent study showed that, any child who’s exposed to giving in this manner in childhood is 40 percent more likely to contribute to charities later in life).

2. Let your child be a “secret Santa” to an elderly neighbor.

They need not buy presents; have them design a jar with slips of paper detailing little chores and errands your child will do for this individual, like mowing the lawn come springtime or going to the corner grocery store when they need a quart of milk. Your neighbor (or relative) will be deeply touched by this, and it fosters a deep bond between child and senior that endures.

3. Volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen.

When the whole family spends the day together volunteering, it creates memories of shared good times, and strengthens familial bonds. Call around and find out what organizations are in need of help in December, and sign your family up. Serve up a hot meal, wash dishes, or clean out animal cages at the local shelter – however you spend the day evokes a sense of accomplishment and contribution. Try to make it an annual tradition, even when the children get older.

4. Give change to charities at grocery stores, malls and other shopping venues.

Give your child some coins and dollar bills to carry, so that when you’re out picking up food or gifts, they’ve got funds to make donations to those standing outdoors. Groups like the Salvation Army usually have an individual posted at entrances at shopping centers. Let your child do the giving, and do it often.

5. Choose gifts from charity organizations’ catalogues.

You can make the life of a family in the developing world considerably better by buying a goat, or a sheep, or other livestock for them as a holiday present. This type of giving back truly makes the world a better place, and a family has access to all the benefits that one animal offers – wool, milk, etc. And like volunteering, make this an annual tradition. Consider UNICEF, the non-profit that provides everything from clean water to food and clothing to children around the world, or research Give Blck, a database that focuses on Black-founded charities concerned with civil rights, gender equality and many more societal problems. ( If there is an issue of specific concern to your family, there is, undoubtedly, a charity devoted to it.

6. Consider rescuing a pet or donating to your local Humane Society.

Adopting a Pet During The Holidays

This suggestion comes with plenty of caveats, of course, but having a pet teaches children many valuable life skills. Compassion, patience, responsibility and other crucial traits are honed once a child starts taking care of a dog or cat each day. Naturally you need to have the room and the resources to care for a pet – food and veterinary care don’t come cheap, particularly for large animals.  But if you do have the space, time and funds to devote, giving in to your child’s wish for a pet makes a wonderful present. If you simply can’t take on an animal in your circumstances, consider making a donation in your child’s name to the Humane Society.

The holiday season is filled with joy, celebration and lots of presents piled high under the Christmas tree. But giving outside our own circle, to strangers or charities and non-profits that need financial support, is an emotionally satisfying way to give back to our communities.  Giving to strangers, whether they are acquaintances down the block or a large charity across the globe, is an important part of the holiday season. This type of giving, in which nothing is expected in return, makes the world better in ways both large and small. And giving instills in children the sense that they belong to a world much larger than the one beyond their home, and that people share responsibility for each other, even if they live many miles apart and have never met. Giving back is a way to pay it forward, as the saying goes, and that is beneficial to everyone, most particularly during the coming holiday season.