Think through the people you know, or even those whom you don't know yet. What are they going through right now?
Where are they? In a Third World country around the globe from you, on the streets downtown, in a decent enough home down the street from you, or, chances are, they might be living at your house. This might be you.
What can you do? How can you help make the holiday season a little merrier for someone else?
- Invite an international student or someone else who has no local family over for a holiday meal, even if it is not right on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. How about hosting a Friendsgiving this year to give everyone a chance to gather for food, fun, and friendly conversation?
- Talk to a lonely friend. A cup of tea? A listening ear for sure. Listen, don't lecture.
- Watch what you say to people, especially among those whom you don't know really, really well. You might make a critical comment about "other people's problems" (such as substance abuse, financial issues, family crisis, mental illness, etc.) not realizing that those in your presence are affected by it too. You don't always know what someone is going through, and if you are throwing off negative vibes, you can be sure they won't be eager to tell you about it, unless it is to tell you off for being insensitive. :-(
- Be extra sensitive and gracious to families with special needs children. Read here: Making It Through the Holidays with Children Who Have Special Needs (at Karen Campell's That Mom blog)
- Offer to watch a friends' kids so their stressed out parent(s) (especially a single mom or dad) can go out for some alone time, a date with a hubby or friend, or a holiday party.
- Take a fancy casserole, a pumpkin pie, or a plate of Christmas cookies to a shut in. Be sure to ask about food restrictions if they have health issues. Maybe you could reduce salt in your meats and side dishes, and use stevia instead of sugar for your baked goods.
- Sing Christmas carols at a nursing home.
- Write letters or make cards for (or with) elderly relatives or neighbors. Add pictures that your kids have made.
- Help an elderly or handicapped friend decorate for Christmas. They can't always reach up high or lift boxes. See Easy Christmas Decorating on a Dime.
- Throw a Christmas craft party for neighbor kids. Provide all of the supplies for projects for various ages and interests. Make sure you serve lots of yummy snacks! And tell them about Jesus. Yes, tell them about Jesus.
- Go serve the Thanksgiving or Christmas meal at the homeless shelter.
- Donate non-perishable foods or gift cards to a food drive.
- Pick out gifts for a needy someone in your community. (Ask your pastor for the names of needy folks or worthy organizations.)
- Be a Secret Santa and drop a bag of goodies or presents off on a doorstep of someone you know. Don't know what to buy? A gift card to Walmart or Target is always appreciated so they can buy for their own kids. And then maybe a Starbucks or Panera gift card so they can stop for a hot drink or a snack while they're out shopping.
- Harvest of Hope with Partners International - gift catalog of items you can order to be sent to impoverished people around the world. Piglets anyone? Or how about medicine, or school supplies, or clean water, or therapy for a disabled child? There are plenty of options to fit your budget and get your kids involved!