The holiday season has a tendency to do one of two things to most people. It either leaves them thinking about what they can do to help others, or it leaves them feeling frazzled by long lines, demanding wish lists, and angry shoppers. If you want to make the most of this season and want to share with others, consider replacing holiday gifts for those who already have everything with volunteering your time in their name.
Holiday gifts are supposed to be a way to show that you care, but when people already have all that they need, a gift can be rather useless. Giving your time to those in need, however, is often the best holiday gifts that you can give. Offering your time to a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, a food bank, or anywhere else that there are people with true need can help you remember what the season of giving is really all about.
One wonderful idea is to offer to share your family Christmas dinner with an elderly person who has no other family left. Whether you choose to cook in your home or theirs, giving your time to make an elderly man or woman feel like part of a family again can be the greatest Christmas gift you can give.
Another nice thing you can do is to make up a hot Christmas dinner plate with all the trimmings, and offer it (wrapped in foil) to a local homeless person. Due to safety concerns it is not a good idea to invite a homeless person into your home, but if you know your local homeless guy (or girl) well enough to know their name, you could offer to pre-pay their homeless shelter fees (typically $5-$10 a night) so they can spend the Christmas week being warm at night. Make sure you hand the money to the shelter yourself so you can be sure your money will go to the cause you intended!
If you love animals, the alternative would be to buy a dozen warm blankets from you local Salvation Army or thrift store, and donate them to your local animal shelter. Most animals are typically kept outside by animal shelters in all weathers, and some shorthaired or old dogs suffer a great deal on cold winter nights. Animal shelters are always happy to accept donations of warm blankets or dog bedding pads for their dogs at Christmas time.
A great benefit to giving your time as a holiday gift is that it can teach a valuable lesson to your children. Allow them to pitch in whenever possible, and let them know why you have chosen to volunteer your time and effort. When kids understand that there are people and animals out there who literally have nothing, it can help them to appreciate the things that they have in a much deeper way.
Giving your time as a holiday gift can do more than just leave you feeling great, it can make a true difference in the lives of everyone you encounter.