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Getting in the Spirit of the Holiday Season: Making a Difference

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Every day we have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.  Many of us know people who are struggling right now…unemployed, underemployed, or simply stressed by the demands on their time.  A kind word, a helping hand…these things can do a lot to lift the spirit, not only for the recipient but also for the giver.  The holidays are a wonderful time to reflect and consider how you might help others.

I found myself inspired by the  story of the random act of kindness by a NYC police officer, and the stories of Secret Santas paying off layaways at WalMart are heartwarming as well.  But making a difference in someone’s life doesn’t always have to involve money.

Whether you choose to donate time or money, here are some ideas to help you make a difference.

Random acts of kindness:  Think of how you feel when someone does something nice and unexpected for you.  It makes you feel really good.  This can be as simple as letting the person in back of you in line at the store go in front of you, because they are in a hurry or only have a few things.  It’ll make their day, and doesn’t cost you a thing.

Give the gift of time.  Do you know a single mom/dad that doesn’t get much time to themselves?  Offer to watch the kids while they go shopping, or just get some much needed time to themselves.  Someone who is caring for elderly parents would probably appreciate a little help as well.

Listen.  Sometimes people just need to talk.  Perhaps they are struggling to make ends meet, or perhaps they’re facing the holidays without a loved one.  Whatever the reason, sometimes what a person needs the most is just someone willing to sit with them and listen.

Make cards for hospitalized kids.  Cards for Hospitalized Kids is a national organization founded by high school student Jen Rubino in 2011.  They seek to spread hope and joy to children who are hospitalized or are seriously ill by giving them handmade cards.  This is a great way to get your kids involved in the holiday spirit.  For more information on guidelines for making cards and where to send them, go directly to CFHK’s website.

Let our military personnel know how much you appreciate them.  The Holiday Mail for Heroes program distributes holiday cards to veterans, active-duty service members and military families around the world.  Unfortunately the deadline for sending cards to the PO Box passed a few days ago, but I wanted to still include them, because this is a wonderful program!

Volunteer at a local soup kitchen.  If someone is unemployed or underemployed, they may be struggling to put food on the table.  Serving those less fortunate than you will give you a new appreciation for the food on your own table.

Adopt a family, or participate with a local Giving Tree.  Brighten the holidays for children and their families in a time of need during the holiday season. This is a great way to help out families in need in your own community!

Remember though, you don’t have to wait for the holidays to make a difference in someone’s life.  You can always extend a helping hand year round. As Anne Frank said, “How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.”  It’s a lovely sentiment, and very true.  We can all make an effort to improve the world, in our own way!