The holiday season is filled with many things; family, parties, food, friends, gifts and cheer. Sometimes it’s also filled with things that aren’t as fun as those listed. Holidays can also bring on anxiety and depression due to missing loved ones, financial struggles or family turmoil. Whether your holiday season is joy filled or a time that you eagerly await to be over, there’s a great way to spend your holidays….giving.
We all go through tough times, and one of my mottos when I’m going through a tough time, something that keeps things in perspective, is that someone almost always has it worse. Doing something for someone else is a great way to fill your soul, to make someone else happier, if even for a day. But where to give, what to give?
To start, giving of yourself can be as simple as smiling at a stranger…saying hello. It’s amazing what a difference it makes in someone’s day. It certainly does for me. Remembering that everybody has a struggle that we know nothing about keeps me in check. That’s not always easy, I know. Throughout my career in Mary Kay, there’s a saying that I’ve heard time and time again, something that Mary Kay Ash herself taught, and that is to pretend everyone has a sign around them that says “make me feel important”. Isn’t that something we all want? To feel significant. To know we matter in this world…to someone?
So what are some ways we can make a difference? Personally it started with some fun. Every year, for the last 26 Christmases, my husband and I have a Christmas party. All of our friends and some of our families join us to celebrate the year that is coming to an end and the joy of the season. We are very fortunate to be surrounded by some really fantastic people. Every year, we have some type of “drive”. Most years, it’s toys for kids less fortunate. Some years, when the food banks were depleted to dangerous levels, we’ve done food drives. We’ve done coat drives. And this year, we’re having a gift card drive for a friend that is honoring the spirit of her recently departed 16 year old son, who even in sickness, had a most giving spirit. Those gift cards will go to ill children and their families, who spend much of their time traveling back and forth to hospitals and sometimes have to leave jobs to care for their sick children. It’s our way of celebrating what we believe to be the true meaning of the holiday. I don’t share this to seek applause or praise. It’s merely an example of ways to give back.
Of course, that’s not the only way to give. There are countless organizations to donate to, whether it be toys, food, clothes or money. And let’s not forget that time is a commodity that many organizations don’t have enough of. Donating your time to a food shelter, a hospital, a veterans home is invaluable. If you don’t have the funds to donate for the aforementioned ideas, your time is just as valuable.
All of these ideas are a great way to spend the holiday season, but not just the holiday season. This is something you could do year round. I’ve found, and this isn’t an original epiphany, that I get as much (if not more) out of the experience as the recipients do.
Some ideas to get the ball rolling (these are just a few…certainly there are others and some perhaps more local to your particular neighborhood, with a little research):
Give your time or food donations to organizations like Philabundance (www.philabundance.org), Manna (www.mannapa.org), and Aid for Friends (www.aidforfriends.org and read our interview with them at http://goo.gl/9e4LJ0).
Donate new, unwrapped toys to Toys for Tots (www.toysfortots.org), St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children (www.stchristophershospital.com), Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (www.chop.edu).
Donate time, money or items to Salvation Army (www.Salvationarmy.org).
Donate needed items and time to our veterans at the Delaware Valley Veterans Home (http://www.dvvh.state.pa.us/ and read our interview at http://goo.gl/y7g8Q6 to read our interview with some of the vets that live there…fourth story), Philadelphia VA hospital (http://www.philadelphia.va.gov/giving/).
There are many more that are not included here, but Google is a great tool for you to do a little homework. It could even be a neighbor that you decide to help by bringing them dinner, a gift or even sharing a beer with because they don’t have any family left. Whatever and whoever you decide to donate to, I hope it makes your holiday (and the holiday of someone else) that much happier. We’re all in this together!
On behalf of the One Unified Project, we wish you the happiest of holidays.
Peace and love,
Noelle and Michelle