While it’s certainly ideal to give to others year round, there’s a definite push to give around the holiday season — and for good reason: Often many people who are struggling due to poor health, tight finances, or grief, feel more alone and need aid, love, and encouragement this time of year. Here are a few practical ways to help people who might be in need.
Give the Opportunity for Others to Give
If you’re like most people, you peruse various stores in real life or online for gifts that suit the needs and wishes of friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. But did you know you can still give back even while buying a pair of shoes or a pound of coffee? Ever since it became clear the Millennial generation prefers companies that embrace giving to charity while selling a product, more companies have dutifully fulfilled this goal.
These companies all sell fantastic products and give a portion of their proceeds or their actual product to those in need. Many people are familiar with Tom’s business model of giving away a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair they sell. But Project 7 sells “great-tasting and world-changing” gum, snacks, bottled water and clothing that’s not only eye-catchingly packaged, but “[f]or each product purchased they make a corresponding donations for things like fruit trees, meals, digging wells, and providing education.”
Yoobi sells school and office supplies that are so bright and colorful kids might actually want to do their school work — and for everything they sell, they donate the same number of supplies schools that need it in America.
Any nurses, doctors or medical students on your Christmas list? Figs creates the softest, cutest-looking pair of scrubs it’s you’ve ever seen. Apty called Threads for Threads, Figs “donates a pair of scrubs to a healthcare provider in a developing country for every pair purchased on their site.”
The list goes on. This year, before you hit up your usual stores, try some of these and see if anyone on your list will enjoy a product from one of these companies. This way, they’ll get what they want — and someone else will get what they need.
Give the Opportunity for Joy
Photo: Compassion International
Recently, I heard if you grow up in America you’re already part of the 1 percent in terms of wealth and opportunity. With this spirit in mind, my children will learn that the entire world does not look like their middle-class, manicured, happy neighborhood. There are people hurting and starving; fighting for their lives and fighting for joy — on Christmas Day and every day. We cannot do much but we can do some and to that end, my children all participate in purchasing and packing up shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Through churches, Franklin Graham’s company provides red and green shoeboxes as well as guidelines for what to do.
My daughter and I went shopping and purchased four of the following: toothbrushes, soap, hairbrushes/combs, washcloths, small toys, crayons, pencils, and paper or coloring books. (Candy and liquid are not allowed.) We packaged them up and discussed how we hoped the children receiving them would enjoy our small token.
We also perused Compassion International’s online catalogue and chose some products that would help people around the world who need literal food, water, or access to educational materials. This year, my kids chose “chickens” and “emergency food and water” (these are actual categories. With a simple click and online payment, our gift goes to help people fighting to put food on the table. Admittedly, this is a minuscule offering to combat the large scope of pain and suffering around the world, but hopefully it teaches them to think of others and not just what they want on their Christmas list — and provides both with a bit of joy.
Give the Opportunity for Gratitude
Photo: Operation Christmas Spirit
Among the groups that feel most ostracized around the holidays is the military. Many families are split apart while loved ones are deployed — so both the person away and the family that remains home feel lonely. Fortunately there are some fantastic organizations that know this and try to assuage some of those feelings during this time.
This site encourages people to “adopt a military family” and lists ideas of what to do for said family, such as mailing them care packages or inviting them into your home for a meal.
Operation Christmas Spirit supports military families by “adopting” over 100 families and fulfilling their Christmas wish lists with gifts for all family members and gift cards to do their own shopping; sponsor gifts and crafts at unit holiday parties; “adopt” single Marines and sailors, giving them gifts and gifts cards to celebrate whether near or far from their families.” (Speaking of gifts, here’s a great stocking for any military personnel.)
If you want to send a care package but just don’t know how, Operation Gratitude can do it on your behalf through your donation. To date, the group has shipped 1.6 million packages filled with over 50 items including “food, entertainment, hygiene, and handmade items, plus personal letters of appreciation.” If you know a service member in harm’s way and you’d like them to receive a package, you can request it via their online form and they’ll send one.
Nicole Russell is a contributor for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter .