Finished all your shopping for the holidays and still feel as though something’s missing?
Maybe you’ve forgotten the giving side of the season - and I don’t mean the jewelry, electronic equipment or piles of toys you’re planning to shower on loved ones.
Let’s call a time-out from the holiday frenzy and think about how we might give a bit of ourselves to others.
Here are 12 ideas. See if you can commit to one or more. In doing so, you might discover that the “something missing,” a peace and joy to enrich your life beyond the holidays, is not at the rush-about malls but right within your reach.
Choose a charity you haven’t supported in the past and give to it. Your gift can be money or yourself (volunteering to help) or both. And make it a yearlong commitment.
Set aside time with your family and read some of the significant stories of your faith. Then talk about how the stories inspire you and give you hope in your daily struggles.
If you cook, prepare a special treat for someone who’s alone: a friend, a neighbor, a member of your congregation. Make it a family or group project. Or check with local nonprofit agencies to see if they could use your treats.
Use your talents of sewing, woodworking, handicrafts, etc. to make an item for someone who’s alone. Check with a local charity, nursing home or congregation for names.
Write to someone who has meant a lot to you: a teacher, a member of the clergy, a distant friend or family member. Tell the person about his or her positive influence in your life and say thank you.
Create a “Helping Hand” certificate for an elderly friend or neighbor that says you’ll do yard work, household chores or other helpful deeds for a specified period of time at no charge. Mark the dates on your calendar to follow through and don’t wait for the person to call you.
Donate a blanket or coat to a homeless shelter or other organization that helps those in need. Call first to see what they need the most.
Break down a barrier. Learn about another religion by inviting a member of it to a group you belong to. Discuss ways you might work together on a project that helps others and begin to do it.
Visit a nursing home and talk with a resident who has no family. The home’s administrator can advise you. Make it a regular part of your own or your family’s or group’s activities to stop by and chat, send cards, and provide basic necessities as well as treats.
Donate blood to the American Red Cross. Sign a donor card that allows your organs or tissues to be given to others at the time of your death. Both are small acts that pay off big-time for others.
Take the first step in trying to reconcile with someone from whom you are estranged. Send a brief letter that doesn’t focus on the past disruption but on your commitment to restoring the relationship. Follow up with a phone call and an invitation for a face-to-face reunion.
Commit to regular times of prayer and meditation. By giving yourself time for spiritual enrichment, you will be prepared to give others the true spirit of the season and a joyful life throughout the year.