This season, more so than any other, I think we all need a boost or two to get into the spirit of giving. So here are my top 5 ways to get into the charitable spirit:
1) Be thankful. No matter how little we have, we can always find something to be thankful for. Wherever you go, pay attention to the people around you. Do you notice a child who is disabled, and yet she laughs joyfully? Do you see a blind man who doesnít let his lack of sight prevent him from seeing the world? Surely, despite your own troubles and sorrows, there must be something for which you can be grateful. Search that one thing out and hold it tight. It is then, during our time of sincere thanksgiving, that we tend to open our hearts up the most to others. This is how we let charity in.
2) Send holiday cards. Cards represent a gift of thoughtfulness, and they are a baby step toward a more significant charitable spirit. Write to friends and family with a genuine note of cheer and put a good, old-fashioned stamp on it and pop it in the mailbox. Itís the human touch that, in spite of our digital dependence, we all crave. I would go so far as to gather your family around and write cards to people you donít even know Ė patients at the local hospital and children at a local shelter. This is how we remember that we are all one.
3) Be modest with your own gift-giving. I am not a wealthy person, but I have more than my parents ever had, and I am so thankful that my children will never be without. Each year, we try so very hard to not shower our children with every little toy and gift that they want. We celebrate our holidays, of course, and that does include giving gifts. But our goal is not to count the gifts under the tree, but to count our blessings around it. We think itís OK for our children to yearn for a certain toy that we simply feel is too expensive. We remind them to be thankful for what gifts they do have, and then we can ask them to imagine what it must feel like for poor children who donít receive a gift at all. This is how charity is born.
4) Donate that free store turkey. I canít believe it, but Iíve received three free promotional turkeys from three different stores! Iím not cooking this year, and I donít even have room for them in my freezer. So, Iím going to donate them to the Food Bank. It will cost me nothing for this small act of kindness, and yet my heart will grow a bit when I do. I canít help but think of Scrooge in The Christmas Carol when he buys the biggest turkey and sends it to the Cratchit house. I will actually be responsible for helping to feed three needy families on Thanksgiving Day. This is how charity begins.
5) Start with your neighbors. Surely, you remember the old adage, ďCharity begins at home.Ē Iím a firm believer in that one. Sometimes it is easier to give to those you know than to a perfect stranger. So, to help usher in the charitable spirit why not start right in your own neighborhood? Create a Secret Santa program with your neighbors. Or, kick-off an Anonymous Basket of Cheer that you fill with cookies, goodies and small gifts and leave on a neighborís doorstep. Include a note asking your neighbor to refill the basket and leave it with another neighbor. Youíll be responsible for starting a giving chain and spreading the holiday spirit. This is how charity grows.
These five simple steps will leave you feeling so good that youíll definitely be ready to begin your journey to charitable giving this holiday season. Maybe youíll use these ideas as stepping stones to donating money or time to those in need. And maybe youíll encourage others to be charitable themselves.
Either way, I hope that you can find the charitable spirit within yourself. We all have one Ė itís just waiting to come out. And the holiday season is the best time to let your charitable spirit shine.
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