I feel as though I need to start this post with a disclaimer. And that disclaimer is that I’m the type that begins celebrating Christmas as early as possible. Like, “OH! Halloween is over?! How quickly can I tune into the Michael Buble Holiday station?”-early. I really don’t mess around, you guys. Christmas is my freaking jam.
Why is it that I love Christmas, though? To answer that question, we’ll need to rewind a few years – and when I say a few, I actually mean closer to 30. After much reflection, I’ve concluded that my love of Christmas stems from my childhood experiences. I get some really serious warm and fuzzies when I think of the Christmases of my childhood.
Decorating the tree was always a family affair. We always reserved at least one night to drive around and look at Christmas lights. Cookie making was a full day event. Dancing to “All I Want for Christmas is You” every Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house became an expected performance by family, and every Christmas Eve ended with my brother, sister and I sleeping in one room and being overwhelmed with excitement by the sound of Santa’s jingle bells outside the window. Even after I didn’t believe, I would still jump up and down on the bed with my siblings in excitement. That’s part of your job as the oldest sibling, after all, and Santa-believer or not, it was MAGICAL. One year, the gift from my siblings and me to my parents was a full out dinner theatre performed by their three children and a dinner ordered from Steak Out. I’m not kidding, you guys. My brother was two, and we made him wear a jean jacket and “play the drums” on pots and pans, and I distinctly remember sneaking away to the laundry room on the landline to secretly order those scrumptious steaks.
When I reflect on all of this wonderfulness that makes me think so fondly of Christmas, I realize that absolutely NONE of it has to do with receiving gifts. not. one. bit. What makes me think so fondly of it is the time spent with family and friends and the memories we are so fortunate to make together. It’s the giving, the bonding, the love, the widespread spirit of Christmas that makes it such a special time. Sure, I enjoy getting gifts. I am human after all. But that’s not WHY I enjoy the Christmas season.
And so this year, I have elected to put the emphasis less on myself and more on others. I’m going to spend more time with my family, more time giving to those in need, more time remembering the real reason for the season and less time perusing the mall in search of ALL of the Christmas gifts. If you’re looking for a way to donate your time or money to something or someone this holiday season, here are a few recommendations.
1. The Ronald McDonald House || The RMHC offers parents and family members of sick children a respite from hospital waiting rooms 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They provide comfortable beds, hot showers, home-cooked meals, kitchen and laundry facilities and more. Our local Rising Tide Society TuesdaysTogether chapter will be providing a meal one night in November! This is a great activity to do with a group, or they also provide a multitude of other volunteer opportunities.
2. Youth First, Inc. || Youth First exists to transform and strengthen the lives of young people and their families. They provide social workers in area schools, and they provide prevention programs for families and youth. On-site, they provide behavioral health services and programs free of charge that prevent substance abuse, improve family relationships and develop life skills. Their volunteer opportunities range from creative activities to clerical duties to food preparation.
3. Holly’s House || Holly’s House is a non-residential child and adult victim advocacy center whose mission is to empower victims of intimate crimes and abuse by providing support, promoting justice and preventing violence. There are many ways to help out at Holly’s House. You can do something as simple as using their special link when you shop through Amazon, or you can help out by volunteering through various opportunities.
4. Hangers || Hangers is the EVSC student clothing resource for children in need. They provide opportunities to serve by donating clothes and hygiene product. They accept new and gently used clothing that’s appropriate to wear for school, so if you’re cleaning out your kids’ closets this season, this is a great place to send those clothes!
5. Little Lambs || Little Lambs creates alliances with professional organizations that provide prenatal and pediatric care, behavioral services and more. When parents obtain services from a partnering organization, they are rewarded for positive acts on behalf of their children with vouchers they can use to “purchase” baby and child items offered through the Little Lambs store. They accept monetary donations or volunteers in their store to stock supplies and greet clients among other tasks.
6. The Michael J. Fox Foundation || The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through funding research and to ensure the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today. Their website provides a wide range of ways to get involved from monetary donations to participating in clinical trials.
7. Advent Conspiracy || In short, CHECK THIS OUT. But to expand a little bit, Advent Conspiracy is a movement in which you buy less and give more – specifically to those in need of clean water around the world. I was first introduced to this at the church we attended in Boston, and the idea has never left me. There are people out there who don’t have clean water to drink, and here I am worrying about whether I should ask for a red sweater or a blue sweater for Christmas. If you only click one link on this page, let it be this one.
I know I’ve only touched on a few of the many many opportunities out there to serve others. If there’s an organization you would like to share with this audience, please mention it (with a link) in the comments below! The point, though, is that there are so many people in need out there. There are so many people we can love and serve. We have the opportunity to share the joy and love of Christmas with people who may not otherwise experience it. So let’s focus on others this year. Let’s spread that love. There are many people out there who really need it. Let’s be the ones to give it.