Acts of service and kindness should be practiced all year long. But winter, especially, holds many challenges for those who have less or are disabled in any way. It's easy for us to remember to help family and friends, but helping strangers is the ultimate act of love and it's important for us to nurture this thoughtfulness and consideration for others in our children.
I know this is a really busy time of year for families. It certainly is for mine! But think long term and about the qualities of love and kindness and social responsibility you want to foster in your children. Make time to do for others this holiday season, and if you can, do so again in the Spring. Mark it on your calendars as a reminder to do acts of kindness until eventually it becomes a habit and you don't need those reminders anymore.
Not sure where to start? Here are some simple ideas for you and your family to make this world a better place...
Make Dinner for Others
Is there a family in your neighborhood that is struggling financially? Or maybe you have an elderly neighbor? Or a couple with a new baby? Maybe a new family has recently moved in. Whatever the case, taking the time to make a meal for another family is a true act of kindness and friendship. It doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. Even a one-pot meal with a loaf of French bread is a blessing during this busy and cold time of year. If you don't have time to make a meal, how about picking one up from a local restaurant and delivering it?
You can find easy meal ideas here:
Collect for Others
LOTS of drives are going on at this time of year! Help one or more of them out by organizing a collection in your child's school or in your neighborhood. Here are just a few items that are collected by shelters and nonprofit organizations:
- canned goods for food banks
- toy drives for lower-income families
- book drives for shelters and schools
- adopt-a-family by foster care agencies
Help the Elderly
Perhaps you have an elderly neighbor who has a tough time getting out in the winter. Some acts of kindness might include:
- raking up the leaves in their yard
- picking up the pine cones in their yard
- taking their newspaper/mail up to their front door and handing it to them
- making them a meal
- picking up groceries for them
- mailing any bills/letters they have
- rolling their trash cans down to the curb/back up to the house
- walk their dog
Make Holiday Cards
Nursing homes are frequently in desperate need of some cheer. Break out the markers, stamps, etc. and have your children (or their class!) make holiday-themed cards and posters. Then as a group, deliver them to a local nursing home. Ask the staff if you can go to each room and personally deliver the cards because just a smile and some kind words can truly brighten up a person's day, especially if they aren't having a good one.
You can even take it one step further and get a group of children to put on a concert by singing holiday songs for the residents. That will really put a smile on their faces! But make sure that you coordinate the date ahead of time with the staff.
Donate Coats & Blankets
Some say that we are heading into a bitterly cold winter. Many homeless people are in desperate need of coats and blankets. So next time you head to the store to pick up coats or blankets for your own family, consider buying one or two extra to donate to a homeless shelter. Even if you don't have extra cash to buy a new coat, look through your closet at home and find those pieces of outerwear that no longer fit or that your family simply doesn't wear anymore and donate them to someone who needs them.
Write Letters to our Troops
There are many awesome programs that deliver letters to our troops stationed overseas. Far away from family and country during the holidays can be hard for many of our military men and women. Your simple, handwritten card can provide encouragement and happiness, reminding them why they are fighting for our country and thanking them for their service. Here are four awesome programs you can explore:
- Operation Gratitude
- A Million Thanks
- Soldier's Angels
- Adopt a US Soldier (Long-term commitment)
Donate Food to Pets
Don't forget about our four-footed friends! Compassion isn't just for people but also for companion animals and wildlife. Many animal shelters are seeking contributions of pet food, bowls, waterers, pet beds, bones, and pet toys. Consider picking up a 50 lb. bag of pet food, or putting together a little gift basket with items that your local pet shelter can use.