Every year I make a list of the things that I want to do during the holiday season. Christmas isn’t just about getting presents for me — it never was. My childhood wasn’t filled with things like most American kids have nowadays. I was lucky if I got new underwear or pajamas from Santa some years. The Christmas season was more about experiences. Visiting the Rockefeller Tree. Attending the Natale festival in Little Italy. Midnight Mass. These are my memories of Christmas. As an adult, I expanded my list of experiences and I want to share them today, because I think everyone should remember what the real spirit of Christmas means. It’s not about getting a new iPad or the latest must-have toy. It’s about experiencing the joy, hope, and love the season embodies and helping others feel the same way.
Here are a few things on my list to do this year:
- Volunteer. Those Salvation Army bell ringers don’t grow on trees! It takes a well-coordinated volunteer army to man those kettles you see around stores, in the mall, and on street corners. Give the gift of your time. Usually, shifts are 2 hours. Surely, you’ve got 2 hours you can donate to a worthy cause.
- Attend a local holiday concert. Every year my town has a holiday concert put on by the local Pops Choir. They’re usually a fundraiser, so admission goes toward funding a local charity such as the food bank or a women’s shelter. Kicking back in an auditorium filled with like-minded people who want to enjoy some holiday music sung by people who should – in my opinion – be on American Idol(!) is a great way to spend a wintry, cold afternoon. Sit back, listen and enjoy, and know you are making a difference in someone’s life with the cost of your admission.
- Support Toys for Tots. I know I said Christmas isn’t about the presents, but kids, especially kids in foster care, those who have to spend Christmas in the hospital, those whose mothers or fathers are serving in the military thousands of miles away, THOSE kids deserve to get toys and presents. My daughter is an adult and I haven’t bought her a toy in quite some time. But I still toy shop during the holidays so I can hopefully make another child’s day a happy one.
4. Volunteer at the local food kitchen or deliver food to shut-ins. This one is so self-explanatory I don’t need to define it, but I will, with this thought: Think of the meal you have with your family, friends, loved ones every Christmas. I’m sure your table is packed with more food than you all could possibly eat in one sitting. The house is decorated and warm. Everyone is relaxed, happy and glad to be alive. Now think about that family where the dad just lost his job, or the single mom who left an abusive relationship and took her kids with her. They live in a shelter. They worry if they’ll even get a meal a day, much less a holiday one.These are the people food kitchens were made for. Why don’t you take an hour out of your time and volunteer to serve these people. Spend time with others who don’t have what you do, probably through no circumstances of their own making, and help them see that people really are kind and giving and the world isn’t a terrible, lonely place.
5.Attend a holiday craft fair. I lovelovelove receiving home-made gifts. This is a great way to support local crafters AND do some holiday gift shopping
6.Give blood. This may be the last thing you think of doing during the holidays, but believe me, it’s needed. This is the one selfless act that truly means giving because you’re literally giving the gift of life to another human being.
I’m sure you can think of many more worthwhile ways to make your Christmas a happier, more soul-fulfilling experience. I wish you all the most joyous of seasons, and my hope is that after reading this blog today, you’ll go out and make someone else’s life as happy as yours is.