If you’re thinking about being charitable during the holiday season, you have several layers to think through. I know for me, it’s not as simple as dropping some change into the Salvation Army bucket outside the grocery store. I think we all feel an obligation to give during the holidays that hits us in a different way than the rest of the year.
There are probably a few reasons for that. First, we get bombarded with countless groups asking for money in a much more proactive (and sometimes aggressive!) way.
Plus, most people buy more things and spend more money during November and December than probably any other time of the year. Even if you’re buying gifts for loved ones — which is wonderful — it’s still buying a lot of “things.” Consumerism abounds.
I, personally, find it really difficult to walk past homeless people at Christmas time with my arms full of shopping items. Or seeing the food- or toy-drive bins at the grocery store as I push my cart full of treats and drinks for our annual Christmas party.
But Christmas is one of the more important feast days of the year — it should be celebrated like a feast! So I’m not saying we shouldn’t surprise our loved ones or host our friends or indulge in Starbucks holiday drinks while we prepare for this season. It’s a time to celebrate together.
The reality is that people in need have as many needs — if not more — this time of year. I live in the Midwest and the cold is a life-threatening factor for not just the homeless but often even people in low-income neighborhoods. Parents struggling to put food on the table for their kids are going to find it nearly impossible to provide Christmas gifts. For people on the margins, feeling disconnected from the rest of society can be magnified during a season the rest of us consider the “most wonderful time of the year.”
When I do give a little more during this season, I can’t help but feel a little guilty about not being more charitable, or having done more volunteer work throughout the year. It’s really tempting to just ignore it all and get on with my own holiday season.
This year, I’m challenging myself to do two things. First, I want to lean into the feelings of discomfort about my own privilege and let that part of my conscience nudge me into being more generous in a variety of ways. Second, my hope is that by embracing a more generous spirit during this season, I’ll carry that into the new year instead of seeing these few weeks as my sole “season of giving.”
I’ve been thinking about the ways I can give of both my time and resources this year. Here are a few ideas that I came up with.
Ways to give of your time and abilities:
- Serve food at a soup kitchen;
- Deliver meals to people in need;
- Volunteer at a fundraising race;
- Organize a toy drive;
- Give blood;
- Join a community choir to carol at senior homes and hospitals;
- Offer to babysit free of charge for a busy young parent;
- Write Christmas cards to soldiers, the elderly, or people in prison.
Ways to give financially:
- Give a donation in someone’s name as a gift;
- Do your Christmas shopping from ethical companies with a charitable focus;
- Keep cash on hand to give to people collecting money outside of grocery stores and malls;
- Buy a few extra items during your shopping to contribute to your local food pantry or toys for a toy drive;
- Sponsor a family or child living in extreme poverty in a third world country;
- Ask people to donate in your name instead of giving you gifts;
- Call the homeless shelter and ask about their greatest need this season;
- Host a “baby shower” to collect items for your local crisis pregnancy center;
- Put money in the collection basket at Christmas Mass.
I sincerely believe that if we all gave a little more this year and use that as a springboard to keep giving all year round, it could really make an impact — in our communities and in the world.