As the holidays approach many of us shift into gift-giving mode, looking for the perfect gift to bring a smile to the faces of our friends, family, and co-workers.
But, gifts aren’t the only way we can be a blessing to others.
Throughout the holiday season, there are multiple ways you can support, even greatly impact, the lives of those around you.
And, though I’m sure none of you seek to give only to receive, studies show that when you help others you can actually benefit your mental and emotional health, improving mood, self-esteem, and promoting happiness.
Oftentimes, helping others requires little more than a bit of your time and a healthy dose of heart-felt action, so why not promote happiness within yourself and positively impact the lives of those around you all throughout the holidays this year?
Below you’ll find 20 tangibly impactful ways you can support others, giving back to your neighbors, community, and those less fortunate throughout these last few months of the year.
And, as you peruse this list, looking for a plan to put into practice this season, I want you to keep this in mind: you never know what one kind act can do in the lives of others, potentially (and likely) creating a ripple effect, benefiting others far beyond your personal reach.
1- Host a Meal/Gathering
In today’s day and time we often text or email instead of chatting on the phone or in person. Many are even working from home now, and I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that we’re all so very busy.
Due to these things and more, in a world where communication and connectability seem effortless, some experts say we’re actually lonelier than ever.
The thing is, there’s truly nothing like being together, in person, with friends and family, laughing, sharing, and making memories.
So, with that in mind this holiday season, support your friends, neighbors, family, or folks you haven’t seen in a while, by hosting a meal or gathering.
We can be prone to take such gatherings for granted, never realizing what this time together may mean to a neighbor, even a friend who doesn’t have family or loved ones to gather with this season, but supporting others through time spent together surrounded by love and laughter can be a real blessing, lifting moods even providing the opportunity for lasting friendships to be made.
2- Organize or Participate in a Holiday Food (or clothing) Drive
There are many ways to approach the notion of gathering food (or clothing) for those who need it most throughout the holiday season.
Maybe there are some in your neighborhood who are struggling right now? If you know of such families, collaborate with others throughout your neighborhood to bless those amongst you who may be in need.
You can also work with school corporations, fire departments, churches, or businesses to collect food and clothing throughout the holiday season to be donated to a local food or clothing bank.
If your community has a shelter, speak with the coordinator to learn of specific needs, then work with friends, neighbors, or co-workers to support those in need this holiday season.
3- Volunteer at a Shelter
If you don’t have the resources to donate food or clothing, you can always support others by giving your time.
Some shelters provide needs for women and children, while others address a wider audience, but either way, these programs and facilities often rely on the helping hands of the community to feed, clothe, and shelter people.
From collecting, packaging, and delivering meals, to working in a food service line in such a shelter, your time will not be wasted, reaching out into communities, meal by meal, smile by smile, passing encouragement on to those who may need it most.
4- Adopt a Family
Throughout the holiday season there are multiple ways to bless families. Be on the lookout for programs like Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child, Toys For Tots, Coats For Kids, and more to support families and their children who would benefit from your support this time of year.
Some communities even have programs offering assistance with utility bills this time of year, so be sure to check with your local utility departments for such opportunities to give back .
5- Bring Beauty to Your Community
Grab a group of willing, helpful hands, and go to a local community park for a few hours to clean up any trash or litter.
A pair of gloves, a few garbage bags, and a little time and effort can go a long way to keep your community parks safe and clean for all to enjoy: people, animals, and the environment!
6- Remember the Elderly
As we age, time can create distance with family and loved ones through jobs and life.
Because of this, you may know of some elderly people living in your neighborhood who don’t have family living nearby, making the days and weeks in between long-awaited holiday gatherings rather lonely for them.
Seek to spend time with, take a meal, or call an elderly neighbor to check in on them or provide some needed company this holiday season.
Of course, there are also many elderly living in senior living facilities that would greatly benefit from cards or visitors. If visitation is limited, seek to send cards or care packages to those living in such facilities to brighten their holiday season.
7- Drive-Thru Donations & More
We’ve often heard of this trend as a random act of kindness, and that’s truly what it is, passing kindness to strangers randomly, providing a blessing to others any time, any place.
Obviously, one way this is done, as the heading suggests, is by paying for the meal or beverage of the person in line behind you at a drive thru.
But, you can also do this in the grocery store or at a gas station purchasing or putting money towards the groceries or gas of the person in line behind you.
Maybe you can pick up a few gift cards the next time you go out for lunch, handing out the cards later to the homeless, allowing them to enjoy a hot meal. Or, you can randomly bless a neighbor, co-worker, teacher, even a stranger, with such a meal as well.
Even consider anonymously paying off a layaway order for a family in need. And, if you’re not sure of where you can do this, there’s a non-profit organization called Pay Away The Layaway that receives donations to pay off layaway balances, providing holiday miracles for those who need it most.
8- Feed First Responders
Collaborate with a group of friends or coworkers to give back to those who risk their lives to keep you safe by taking cards and meals to first responders, firefighters, and/or police officers working long hours throughout the holidays.
9- Treat Teachers and Medical Staff
Teachers and nurses aren’t generally thought of as public servants, yet they serve so many, young and old, each and every day.
Donating to help a teacher stock their classroom blesses both the teacher and the children they teach.
And, providing a meal for a weary teacher or nurse may not only bless one, but many, as this blessing ripples through to the lives these folks touch daily.
10- Disaster Relief
Recently thousands of lives were devastated in the path of Hurricane Ian.
And, while you may be able to donate monetarily to relief efforts here, if you live in an untouched area nearby, you can certainly plan to lend an actual helping hand, volunteering in clean up and rebuilding efforts in the months to come.
For those living in other parts of the country or world, take this example and apply it to any experienced tragedy in your area, supporting any affected by natural disasters.
11- Animals Need Support too
People aren’t the only ones in need throughout the holiday season.
You can also give of your time, volunteering at your local animal shelter, providing happiness and love to the pets there.
And of course, if you’re fully willing and able, seek to adopt a shelter animal, providing a home for a pet waiting for and wanting nothing but love and care through and beyond the holidays.
12- Outdoor Work
In the fall and winter months, many in your neighborhood may benefit from a helping hand when it comes to leaf and snow removal.
You can support your neighbors, especially the disabled and elderly, by volunteering your time shoveling their porch, sidewalk, or driveway, or raking up fallen leaves in their yard.
13- Youth Mentoring
If you’d like to support the future of our world, get involved in the lives of the youth in your community.
You can speak with teachers to find effective ways to volunteer your time or skills reading books to children or tutoring struggling students for free.
And, you can also get involved with programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization providing the support of adult role models and mentors to children in need. It is important to note that right now the program has a greater need for men volunteers than women, with 70% of children in need of a big brother being boys and only 30% of volunteers being men.
14- Donate Blood
Time, talents, and treasures are often the first things people think of when it comes to ways we can give back to others, but you may have a more valuable resource when it comes to helping others, your blood.
It is not uncommon for communities to be in dire need of blood for hospitals and Red Cross relief organizations.
If you are healthy and physically able to donate blood, seek to find out where you can do so to support the health of those in your community.
Perhaps a lost art and holiday tradition, going door to door to the people in your neighborhood, a senior citizen facility, or children’s shelter singing cheerful Christmas carols can brighten the day, night, or season for those on the receiving end of this blessing.
16- Kindness Starts at Home
Select a given day to perform random acts of kindness to/for the people living inside your own home.
Whether it’s taking out the trash, giving an encouraging note or card, or helping your spouse cook dinner, seek to do something kind to others in your own home.
These acts can show love, compassion, and appreciation for those you know and love most.
Plan to give the gift of alone time to your friends, family, or neighbors by offering to keep their children so they can enjoy a dinner or date alone.
And, while the parents are away, seek to be a fun, caring sitter for the children, blessing them with the gift of true kindness as well.
18- Restock the Library
Some libraries build their selection through donations.
Seek to contact your local library, inquiring of needs, and if appropriate, take unwanted, gently used books and donate them to the library within your community.
19- Fly Away Home
If you’re a frequent flier, plan to donate your accumulated frequent flier miles to a person or family in need. This simple act could provide a trip home to see loved ones for those who’d otherwise be spending the holidays alone.
You can also donate your flight miles to charitable organizations such as the Red Cross, Make-A-Wish foundation, Miles For Migrants, and more.
20- Military Support
You can support our military members this holiday season by sending cards or care packages to those away from their families.
Organizations like the USO Wishbook can help you find a soldier to support, and the United States Post Office offers discounted, or free, shipping for mail sent to our military overseas.