The holidays are here! And, I have been finding myself having had a change of heart this #Christmas. Not that I was a Grinch the last couple of years, but I certainly found that my joy for the holiday was being zapped by pressure to get gifts and hyper activity of consumerism. Or, maybe it's because now that I'm an adult and see the price tags on gifts, I just don't want to be bothered. #Adulting
In my heart of hearts, I don't want to be like that, so I've been pondering on what would make me get into the true spirit of the season.
I reflected back on things that have been fulfilling and impactful in my own experiences with celebrating for the holidays. It can all be summed up with giving back. So, here I came up with nine practical ways to give this year.
Here are 9 fresh ways to give back this Christmas:
1. Prepare a dinner to deliver to a family:
Do you have the gift of baking? Are you single and have more free time then a couple with three kids? Do you have more holiday time off then the women that is working right up until Christmas Eve? Why not offer to prepare a dish for the busy family.
My mom has been the queen of this. I have watched her over the years offer to make a dish for a family during Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is such a beautiful thing to see because there is a huge sense of gratitude and relief for the receiving party.
So consider a family that you know has a full schedule, and see if you can offer to drop off something for them. Alternatively, while you are grocery shopping for your holiday dinner, offer to pick up their groceries as well.
2. Leave a gift in a public space for someone to find:
Random acts of kindness. So, interestingly enough, this happened to me this week and it made me light up like a Christmas candle.
I opened up a locker at the gym, and as I was putting my duffel bag inside of it, I noticed a bag in the top right corner of the locker. I reached up for it and on the label was written “FREE TO A GOOD HOME”. Inside was a brand new pair of shoes and a velvet red dress.
This was such a sweet surprise for me, that it has prompted me to consider doing the same.
If there has been something you ordered from the #BlackFriday sale and it comes in the wrong size, instead of sending it back or selling it online, consider putting it somewhere unexpected with a little note.
Or, if you have items in your house that are in good condition, put them around your neighborhood, community, or hangout spots as a free take-home gift to the finder.
It is like an adult game of hide and go seek.
3. Give someone a gift voucher for gas or groceries.
This one has been on my heart all year. I live on an island where the cost of living is the highest in the world. #TrueStory
Groceries are necessities, not wants. Around the holiday season, I am always thinking about those who may not be able to afford a decent meal to make the holiday feel special.
Although, I love volunteers who serve our communities over the holidays and prepare meals in public spaces for those who many not be able to get a hot meal otherwise... even I love the comfort of being able to be in my own home with my own family for the holidays.
If a person has fallen on hard times, there may be some pride, shame, and guilt that would cause them to not feel very comforted in a public forum. Especially if their in that transitional time of working through their currently predicament.
Therefore, I think giving grocery vouchers is a way to cover our brother and sister in love, to show compassion for their situation and to protect their heart.
I also admonish you to consider gas vouchers. Think of those who have small children that still need to be transported to school, and the mother or father who still needs to be able to get themselves to work to keep the lights on. Consider the family who may not be able to attend church because they are trying to conserve their gas for the rest of the week.
These are not wants, these are necessities.
We, who are able, are to become the hands and feet of Jesus when we see the needs of others.
4. Invest in your family or friend’s purpose, ideas, or calling.
God has placed a gift, talent, and passion on the inside of every single one of us. We have walking, breathing, living solutions, creative ideas, witty inventors, and intelligent minds in our midst every single day.
However, so many of us need to be cultivated. Our basic human appetite craves to be recognized and for someone to see something great in us. Despite the shortcomings, despite the sin, despite the outward appearance… we want to be seen for our best and fullest potential, even when we do not always believe it about ourselves.
Stop and look around you.
Consider the things you have heard your friends talk about that their interested in. Ponder the passions your family members have started to delve into. Then, purchase a book for them in that subject.
DIY a vision board for them with success in that area and stick a picture of them in the middle.
Hire your cousin who is into make-up artistry to do your makeup for your Christmas party.
Book your uncle who loves photography to do your annual family photos. Who cares if their blurry and he is not the best? #LoveHimAnyway
Shoot, offer your gift or service to someone for free.
I'm a professional photographer, so one of the things I've decided to give is my service to a few friends who I know are trying to build their portfolio and content for social media. I'm giving them my gift of photography as an investment in their passion projects and side hustles.
Make the people around you feel validated and special.
The world says that the greatest investment you will ever make is in yourself. I agree to an extent, but not 100%. I consider others to be the greatest investment we make because we find our greatest joy and fulfillment when we give. This is a two-fold investment.
5. Cards of kindness.
In 2019, I started keeping a pack of THANK YOU cards with me. There are so many people that do things for me, or within my business, or I see them doing in their fields, that I wanted to be more thank-FULL and acknowledge them.
Seriously, how many people showed up for you this year?
How many people checked on you when you were sick or made sure you were okay after a difficult time?
How many times did the trash collectors come by this year to collect your nasty stinky trash?
Who is the person that greets you with a smile every single day when you enter an establishment?
Shoot… who is the meanest, coldest, rudest person you know that could use a kind word and a little goodness to triumph over all that evil they are exuding? Send a card of kindness ESPECIALLY to that person. They need it more than anyone does.
6. Organize a coat drive or blanket drive.
Unless you live in a place where its summer all year around, winters are cold.
We often assume that because we go home to a roof over our heads, a heater, a hot cup of tea, and thick blankets, that a down feather jacket or a wool sweater is not necessary.
I live in Bermuda, so this is specially targeting islanders. This year has been a very wet and windy one thus far. (I know you Canadians, Brits, and New Yorkers would not dare step foot outside without a good quality coat.) However, circling back to #Bermuda, our homes are infamously known for their dampness.
In an article recently posted by the Royal Gazette newspaper, many families are living in some of the derelict buildings here on the island. They may not be living on the streets or in tents on the north shore, but they are still cold and doing their best to stay warm.
Consider how many jackets, coats, sweaters, and comforters you have. Even if there was one or two that you could donate to a drive, your kindness could be keeping someone else warm.
7. Bake cookies or bread.
Baking is one of the most inexpensive things to do. A little butter, flour, yeast, sugar, milk and salt can stretch into something that can feed a family for a week.
I recently learned how to make my grandma’s famous butter roll recipes. It was a rookie trial run this past #Thanksgiving and I underestimated the task. I started baking at 7:00pm, not knowing that it takes a few hours for them to rise, to roll them out, and to bake them. There were a few other rookie mistakes that I will not mention; however, the outcome was edible.
We ended up having two large Ziploc bags of rolls. We gave one to our friends who had us over for Thanksgiving, and the second bag came home with us. That was very unwise because I ate them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and now I am in the gym trying to work it off my waistline.
It amazed me how much came out of the little loaf of dough.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible that reminds me that we serve a God of more than enough, is the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with a five loaves and two fish.
Consider this too that there were actually more than 5,000 there because it says that this count was based on the men, but it did not include also the number of women and children present in that final census. (Probably because after 5, 000 people they were tired of counting and just decided to put a disclaimer in the footnotes.)
I challenge you to learn how to bake something this year and to perfect it. Maybe it will be bread, rolls, cinnamon rolls, cookies or scones. Bake them and get them out of your sight immediately by giving them to someone else (for the sake of your waistline).
This may be too much of a stretch in imagination for some, but you will literally do what Jesus did by ensuring that people have something to eat.
8. Visit a nursing home
Seniors and elderly are often forgotten. Around the holidays, we tend to focus on the little ones who may not have a gift to open. How many people have forgotten their parents in a nursing home?
This is #NoShade. However, sadly it is a fact.
There have been two instances when I was at a nursing home or transitioning facility (a place people go when their soon to die) and noticed a lack of visitors for one or two seniors.
Maybe I was not there on the days that their families were there. I have considered this, but I also bear in mind that some people have nobody. Lives have gotten busy; families want to spend time with their family’s verses in the somberness of a hospital or nursing home. I get all of this.
Nevertheless, let us not forget that they are living, breathing, veterans in this thing called life. And, God willing, we will all live to see an old age as well. In that event, we pray to not be forgotten as though our years on the earth were in vain. They are the legacy that produced us, so as the saying goes, "do not send me roses when when I'm gone". Celebrate with them while they are still here.
It takes very little to make someone smile. If you have a gift of playing an instrument, singing, dancing, painting, reading aloud… whatever… give it. Visit because it may turn out to be the richest and more rewarding experience for you and for them.
9. Invite another family to spend it with yours.
I truly look forward to the day when my husband and I have a home where we can host our family and another. For the last four years, I have been invited to friends’ homes who have prepared a space for me and my family at their table.
When we move to Bermuda, our holiday traditions change because most of my family is abroad. Although, we were content to do something small, or do nothing at all, the invitation to join with another family holds a very special place in my heart. To me, it is a display of so many scriptures in the Word. I will have to save it for another post.
Let’s be honest, we are craving community and belonging. Too many people are spending the holidays in loneliness because perhaps they do not have a great relationship with their own family or their loved ones live elsewhere. Extend the invite.
Do not let a holiday go by where you are aware that someone is alone and you do not bridge the gap to him or her. I promise you that your house is perfect, your food is delicious, your kids are well behaved, and it will be the most rewarding gift you can give.
*I want to say thank you to Emmanuel and Theresa Humphrey for allowing us to sit at their table for Christmas back in 2015, to Matt and Christine Coleman who prepared a place for us at Thanksgiving in 2018, and Jevon and Randi Saunders who opened up their home for us to do Thanksgiving with them in 2019.*
I pray that as we await the next paycheck to run out and get the Christmas presents for all of our peeps, we might consider a shift in our priorities. I hope we will not be too caught up in consumerism, but we will be inspired to be intentional about bringing the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth.