If you've been reading our blog lately, you know that we are having an "Experience Christmas" this year.
This has left me with ample time to think (instead of shop). While we haven't exactly saved money by not shopping (because we spent all.the.money. on a killer snowboarding vacation instead), we have had time to focus more on the reason for the season. In our family, that reason is "giving." We have been doing good deeds for others, spreading happiness, and spending more time together.
We choose a child from an angel tree and bought gifts to make her smile. We have weeded through our toys and closets to make donations to local charities and clothing drives. But here is the problem: I do not want my children to think that these acts are just another item on the holiday list to check off. I want them to understand just how important they are when they donate their time and love to helping others.
I have decided that the experience theme is going to continue on. We are going to continue giving after the holiday. Yes, it is wonderful to make donations and help others for the holidays (and all year), but did you know that most volunteers disappear the day after Christmas? That’s right, people tend to forget about others once the holiday rush is over, paper is ripped to shreds, gifts are piled high, and leftovers are stacked high.
Take a few minutes to mark a date on your calendar after Christmas to volunteer.
The high of Christmas morning is intense. The low of December 26th can be an odd feeling, for adults and children alike. Instead of trying to teach the act of giving during the whirlwind highs, let’s take the time to really address it once the highs have leveled out. Let’s pack up our families and head out into the community to make a difference. Let’s keep people smiling thru the New Year - and beyond.
Children are out of school, parents have shortened work hours to be home with kids, and it is the perfect opportunity to volunteer.
Ideas to Volunteer as a Family
Serve a Meal: Missions, family homes, and shelters will gladly welcome your family to help serve a warm meal. Ask if you can bring warm homemade treats to handout.
Pack Meals: Contact your local school and ask if they work with a program that provides students in need of food with meal packages over the holiday break. Most schools do this, but most parents have no idea. Students leave school on Fridays with a ziplock bag full of easy to eat foods that they can eat over the weekend until breakfast is served on Monday. Holidays and long breaks are typically a time when these children may have to go longer without food. This is such an easy task, as there is a recommended food list to purchase from and you can pre-make the bags with your children while discussing the difference between what is on your dinner table and the tables of those in need of this food.
You can also pack meals for the homeless and actively drive around and hand them out.
Hand Out Fresh Bread: Baking bread is so easy. Your kids can help measure and bake. Share the gift with those fortunate and wrap a loaf with a jar of jam and disposable silverware. (5 minute bread tutorial)
Visit a Nursing Home: There are plenty of carolers and volunteers to keep those in homes company up until Christmas, but these wonderful people would love to receive a beautiful picture or play a game with your family after the excitement has faded.
Register for a New Year’s 5k: The whole family can walk together (or run), but make sure it is a charitable race and proceeds go toward something you care about.
Random Acts of Kindness: Teaching and modeling kindness is a goal for all parents. Choosing random acts of kindness to perform will be a great topic of conversation and bonding opportunity for the family. Let your child choose the acts and help them to make sure they are performed completely.
Positive Affirmations in Chalk: Leave notes around your community. Leave them where people would least expect to see them. Chalk is inexpensive and fun for the entire family to use. Make sure you take pictures by your work, and enjoy a big mug of hot cocoa when you are done. Smile and know that you have brightened so many people’s day.
Dog Walk for an Animal Shelter: Animal shelters are always in need of help. Your family can bath dogs or walk them, some shelters simply want people to come in and play with the animals!
Foster an Animal: Every child wants a pet, but not every parent shares the feeling. A temporary house guest to take care of may be the perfect middle ground. Fostering is still a lot of work, but you do give the animal back knowing that you made a huge difference in their life.
Donate Books to a Library: We pick up books weekly, but rarely think to donate to the library. Children do outgrow their books. Have your kids go through their book collection and weed through what they are done with; helping them pack them up and drop them off!
Visit the Children’s Ward of a Hospital: Bring games, coloring supplies, and books to share. There will be hospital rules that need to be followed so call ahead and ask what the protocol is for volunteering.
Bring the Firemen a Treat: Not only will your kids love baking, but they will probably get a tour of a fire station!
Clean Up a Playground: Trash and junk seem to accumulate at playgrounds. Let your children help make the park ore beautiful and inviting! Clean trash, plant flowers (weather permitting) and even start a Little Free Library!
Take Your Volunteering on the Road: You don’t have to volunteer in your neighborhood. If you wanted to plan a trip over Winter Break, take the opportunity to turn it into a service project. There are specific locations you can visit and volunteer, or you can create your opportunities as you go.
No matter what volunteer opportunity you choose, please take the time to work with your loved ones and help others during the lull of the season.