12+ Stellar Opportunities for Spreading Cheer
Spreading cheer should be a year round effort. In a perfect world, I’d always be focused on brightening other peoples’ days. But I get caught up in busyness. I get distracted by life and turn inward rather than pushing out joy. Fortunately, this time of year is always a wakeup call for me to take a look at how I’m helping others. Here are 12+ stellar opportunities for spreading cheer.
The holidays should be a time of joy. And for many of us the holidays are a wonderful. We spend time with loved ones. We share meals and laughs. We take part in traditions that have been passed down through our families or ones that we’re just creating. We go to lots of parties and holiday events. It’s a magical time. For most.
But for some, the holidays aren’t a time they look forward. Some people have to endure strained relationships. I was reminded of this as a friend explained how she was not looking forward to seeing her much more conservative family members over the holidays. For her it’s a time of tension and walking on egg shells.
Still others have no one to spend this time of year with. They face isolation and withdraw from people. Or they don’t have the means and/or ability to leave their home.
Fortunately, there are ways that we can make this time of year a little brighter for others. Some of them are simple things that can be done anytime, anywhere. Others will require a little planning on your part. Here are 12+ stellar opportunities for spreading cheer.
Hold the door open for someone. I do this all the time. I’m always amazed at how many people don’t. It takes a couple seconds but is such a lovely gesture. I don’t do it for any other reason than I think it’s a nice thing to do. And I don’t “expect” people to hold the door open for me. When it happens I definitely make a point to thank the person. This time of year people are often hurrying around with tons of bags and carrying bulky items. Make it a little easier for them by holding the door while they pass through.
Smile. Again, so easy. This one I have to really think about. I have so much noise in my head that I forget to smile. So I have to make an effort to do it. Sometimes I write it on my hand or draw a small smiley face. Other times I write it down when I’m taking notes so I can force myself to remember. My hope is that the more I smile, the less I’ll have to think about it and it will just come naturally.
Make/Serve/Deliver a meal. There are several organizations that make, serve, and/or bring meals to those that are homebound. Many of the volunteer spots for these organizations fill up months in advance. But if you can find one that still needs volunteers, it’s worth doing. Or, if you know someone that won’t be leaving their house for the holidays, consider bringing them a meal. Everyone loves a home cooked meal. Especially when you don’t have to do the cooking.
Invite someone to share the holidays with you. A few years ago a comedian told me that he didn’t have anywhere to go on Thanksgiving. He didn’t want to visit his dad because they didn’t see eye-to-eye on many things. I invited him over to spend Thanksgiving with my Carter, my sister, and me.
If there is one thing my parents taught me, it’s to invite people to break bread with you. Okay, they never once said “break bread”. It makes it sound like it something much more than sharing a meal, which is probably why I like that phrase.
Growing up my mom always invited random people over. Once she met a guy on jury duty that was estranged from his family. So he came over for Christmas. Another time, she invited a coworker who claimed his parents had died in a train accident. Later we’d learn that the coworkers speculated that he murdered his parents. I’m sure he didn’t. I think we would have heard about it in the news. Or he would have tried to murder us, too.
This guy did spend the whole day trying to figure out where he “knew” my sister-in-law from by peppering her with questions: Do you work out? What kind of job do you have? What do you like to do in your free time. Then same he’d say, “I know I know you from somewhere.” And he’d start again with the questioning. After eight hours and not looking like he’d ever leave, my brother escorted him to the car and drove him home. But it made for an interesting holiday.
My mom always invited people over for the holidays. She would do anything for anyone. Any chance I get to show just a small bit of kindness like she did, I’ll do it.
Having someone new join you for the holidays means you get to experience it through their eyes. You also might get to learn a little bit about how they spent the holidays growing up and what traditions they participated in.
Donate groceries or store gift cards. A big part of the holidays is having a meal together. Many people live paycheck to paycheck so the thought of splurging on holiday food can be stressful for some. Find a food bank to donate groceries to. Or buy a grocery store gift cards to help someone offset their grocery store bill. Any help for a family in need can really add some cheer to their holidays.
Buy toys for those in need. There are so many organizations that collect toys for those that might not otherwise have Christmas. Toys for Tots is one that we always participate in.
It’s so fun to buy toys for others. Carter and I love going to the store and shopping. It makes us feel like kids. We always pick out things that we would want. We especially like buying for teens because that age group always seems to be the most in need for gifts.
This year Carter got to do Shop With a Cop. He and several of his coworkers took a group of kids to the mall to buy gifts for their family. The kids were identified by an organization that serves low income families. Money was provided for the kids to shop with.
Part of the shopping involved letting the kids pick out gifts for themselves. Carter said that it was so hard for the kids to pick out something for themselves because they were used to always putting others before them. That’s so sweet and selfless. It makes me want to buy those kids a bunch of presents just because they’re so giving.
Adopt a family. One year my father-in-law decided that he was going to donate money to a guy at work. The man had a family. He needed a lot of dental work but they were just scraping buy. My FIL felt so bad for this family. Carter and I decided we’d donate some money as well. Not only did it make the family’s Christmas, it made my FIL so happy! He just thought it was amazing that we helped this family that we didn’t know.
You can probably find community programs on the internet that help families in this way. Or, you could go out on your own and help a family you’re acquainted with. My best advice, though, is be discreet. I worked at a company that decided to help out the new receptionist and her family over the holidays. The Human Resources manager sent out an email going on and on about how poor this family was. Well, she sent it to the receptionist along with the company. The receptionist was offended at how this HR woman made her family seem like a charity case and wouldn’t accept anything from her coworkers.
Leave a really good tip. My parents always tipped well so I feel like I need to do the same thing. I’ve never worked in food service. I know I could never handle it. Which is why I feel the need to give at least 20%.
I heard a sermon recently about giving freely and generously so I’ve been trying to add a little extra to the tips I give. I get that I’m not changing any lives with my the couple extra dollars that I give to someone but I hope that every little bit counts. I would love to have the kind of money where I could leave massive tips for every person in the service industry I come in contact with.
Go caroling. This is something my friends and I used to do in high school and college. Many times we’d go to our teachers’ homes because we were brown-nosing honor students. And trust me, the teachers knew what we were up to.
In college we’d go to the homes of elderly people that we knew. Nursing homes and senior centers are often looking for free entertainment because they’re working on a small budget. Spending 20 minutes singing songs for senior citizens won’t just brighten the lives of elderly people, it will also spread some cheer to the employees who often work long hours and are short-staffed during the holidays.
Bake some treats. I love baking. But if the cookies are left in my house I’ll eat all of them. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.
When I bake, I set some aside for us then I drop the rest off at a senior living community. It’s nice to know that they will be enjoyed by others. If you don’t have a rapport with a facility, make sure to check with them ahead of time to see if they can accept the treats. Some have rules about outside food. Others are nut free because of allergies.
When I was in the Junior League of Minneapolis, we used to make cookies to deliver to elderly people at their home. I don’t remember how we got the names of these people. One woman would offer to be the drop off location for the cookies. She’d collect them then bring them to the staging location. Then others would deliver them. So no matter if you liked to bake or you liked to interact with seniors, you could take part in this event.
Give someone a ride to church. Many people like to go to church this time of year but can’t always get there. Even if you aren’t a church person, you can drop an elderly neighbor off at church and pick them up later.
Use your talents. Lots if people could use some extra help during the holidays. Shovel someone’s driveway so they don’t have to worry about it. My dad used to shovel the driveways of everyone on his block Well into his 70’s he’d be doing it for adults in their 20’s. But he loved doing it. Plus he was retired so he was always looking for ways to keep busy.
Help wrap their gifts. Run errands. Bake. Address holiday cards. Babysit so parents can go Christmas shopping for their kids. There are so many little things you can do to make the holidays brighter for those around you.
This months has a way of flying by. So find some time to slow down and enjoy it. Take some time this month to spread some joy. And take some time to also notice when others are spreading cheer.
How do you spread cheer? Where do you find joy this time of month?
Originally published at Participation Medal Wife.