Monday, December 4th, 2017
A few of my friends and I have mutually agreed to stop exchanging gifts this holiday season. Instead of spending money on yet more stuff that none of us need, I'm trying to find creative and budget-friendly ways to make a difference in the lives of others – by donating money or items I already have, as well as donating my time.
Inspired by Others
I'm inspired by the actions of friends, acquaintances – and even complete strangers. Like the time I asked a friend's 12-year-old daughter how she spent the holidays: Her family had a new tradition of packing and distributing a dozen bagged lunches to the homeless on the streets of downtown Toronto. Wonderful family initiative, I thought.
I was also inspired by my mom's last Christmas at the nursing home and the cheerful volunteer who served us our holiday dinner. She said volunteering there, helping the elderly on that day, gave her back so much more in return.
Then there was the woman I overheard at the hairdresser's, who paid five dollars towards the haircut of a total stranger sitting beside her. I was moved by this random act of paying it forward and thought I could do something similar over the holidays.
With this in mind, here are some things I plan to do this holiday season as part of my new non-gift giving tradition:
Support a women's shelter – Personal care items are always needed, so I'll assemble a package of these, along with some gently used clothing and old costume jewelry. A women's shelter I know has a crafts program, where residents repurpose broken necklaces, lone earrings and other bits and pieces of bling into new treasures for sale.
Help a refugee family – Through a holiday gift and food hamper organized by one of my colleagues, I'll contribute some food items towards ensuring this family has plenty to eat over the holidays.
Spend quality time with the elderly – Three of my old high school chums live out of town but have parents in nursing or retirement homes nearby. I'll make a point of spending time with each of them – and maybe even bring my guitar and do an impromptu sing-along for them and their fellow residents.
Support a wildlife rehabilitation centre – Along with a small cash donation, I'll donate an old wooden box that's been sitting in my garage for years – perfect for the squirrel pen.
Pay it forward – by giving an anonymous cash gift to two individuals in my community who do everything they can with their limited means to help homeless cats.
Remember to donate my used postage stamps – For years I've been clipping and saving used postage stamps, then forgetting to do anything with them. This year I'm on it. By googling "where to send used postage stamps" I found numerous charities, both in Canada and internationally, that recycle old stamps for fundraising. For the cost of the postage to send them, I'll be helping a charity continue its good work – while de-cluttering my desk drawer.
Holiday giving doesn't have to stress our finances. By giving creatively, meaningfully and – in my case – avoiding procrastination, we can truly warm the hearts of others as well as our own.