I’m sure we have all said “Happy Holidays” now that it’s December, the supposedly most joyous time of the year. Having a truly happy holiday season can be difficult or exciting for us. It may be the first Christmas without a parent, or it may be that you are coping with an medical diagnosis. It may be a baby’s first christmas or the first New Years kiss with your new husband or wife. Whatever feelings the holiday season brings to you, we should all be sure to wish others a happy holiday.
I believe that the true meaning of Christmas relates to the act of selflessly giving to others. Many people give gifts to their friends or family. We appreciate these gifts because someone was thoughtful while choosing a gift for you. What many people do not do is give to people who really need it. Some families choose to donate money to a charity instead of purchasing more presents. Others give their time to serving a Christmas dinner to the homeless. I encourage you all to find a way to give during this holiday season in a way that does not simply come in a shiny wrapping paper under the Christmas tree.
The act of giving is typically viewed as selfless. One person is giving up time, energy, and other resources so that another person can receive. Receiving can make others appreciative and can increase overall happiness levels because it becomes evident that someone truly cares about you and wishes to make you happy. Something to consider is that giving to others can actually increase your own happiness levels as long as it is altruistic in nature. I enjoy volunteering, especially with kids. I know when volunteers and I show up to an event that the smiles on those kids’ faces are signs of genuine happiness. In high school, I was a member of a community service organization that did many activities throughout the year with inner-city children. My favorite event was the Christmas party we held at the beginning of December. Many of these children were not in financially stable homes. After meeting many of their parents and families, they love their kids just as much as any other parent; they struggle with how to show their kids they love them without using money. During my senior year I was spending the afternoon with a brother and sister who were both early elementary age. As the afternoon came to a close, their grandmother approached me and said that she was so thankful that I gave up my Saturday to spend time celebrating Christmas with these kids. She continued to tell me how her grandchildren are her whole world, and she wished she could give them more. I told her that it must very difficult to feel that way ,but once these kids grow up they will appreciate the love you gave them more than the latest video game. It takes a level of maturity to see how important the love your family and friends show you is. The children may be initially disappointed Christmas morning when an expensive gadget is not under the tree, but they will eventually forget about the disappoint and appreciate how hard their parents tried to give them something. The woman was in complete agreement and gave me a hug before leaving with her grandchildren in tow.
This holiday season I tried to make someone’s holiday season a little brighter. My college was running a program in which we picked the names of a mother or child and purchased gifts that were suggested on a tag. I received a tag with a 18-month old girl. I bought diapers, toys, and some little clothes for her. Once I purchased the gifts for the little girl, I realized these might be the only or most of the gifts she will receive this year. This idea humbled me. I am so lucky that I have the ability to not only spend money on myself and my close friends and family, but I have enough money to buy someone the majority of his or her Christmas gifts.
This holiday season I am looking for new ways to give. Here are some ways that I believe you can make someone else’s holidays a little brighter:
- Visit a nursing home or assisted living community and spend time with the residents. Many of the people who live in these communities will see their family around the holidays, but it is important for them to feel loved by others especially if the person does not have a family or a family who lives nearby.
- Write holiday cards to active-duty military and veterans. Members in the military may be deployed during the holiday season and deeply miss their families. Help lift their spirits by thanking them for their service to our country and by wishing them a happy holiday season.
- Sponsor a child, adult, or family. This is similar to the activity I participated in this year. Many organizations put together these programs. Some examples are Toys for Tots, Salvation Army, and any Adopt-A-Family program.
- Volunteer to serve a Christmas dinner to the homeless. I helped put together a dinner for the homeless, and the gratitude many of the people expressed was very heart-warming.
- Go out caroling. I know many of us do not want to sing for strangers. But as Buddy the Elf once said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” You can find an organization that carols at nursing homes or goes to shut-in’s homes. These people really love visitors who want to share their holiday spirit. Don’t worry if you think you have the worst singing voice. People just care that you want to help them celebrate the holidays.
- Spend and appreciate time with your family. I know the holiday season can be stressful when the whole family gets together. Remember that you family will always be a part of your life, so you might as well appreciate their company. Giving your time and an ear to your family is very meaningful.
- Encourage others to give back with you. Of course it is rewarding to participate in an activity to give back even if you’re alone, but it is very fun when you have your friend or family to do it with you. It will create a new memory the two or more of you can share.
If you have the ability to donate your time, energy, and other resources, I strongly encourage you to do so. These are some of the most rewarding experiences in life.
I hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday season. If this time of year is emotionally challenging for you, remember that there are people who love and will support you. Happy Holidays, everybody.