The many meanings of giving
There were about eight years when Christmas, the holiday we celebrate in our family with utter glee, took on a meaning somewhat unintended by those who founded it. All we cared about was seeing the pure joy in our babies’ eyes as they saw the bounty under the tree, read letters from Santa and marveled at the magic that had just happened. Let’s face it, charity and selfless giving took a back seat. Our kids needed stuff, and lots of it.
If I could go back in time, I would do things differently. I would not just teach them the joy of receiving, but also the joy of giving of themselves. It’s something I forgot, at least in the manic panic of several years of holiday seasons, but have remembered again now that the kids are older. And frankly, I’m disappointed that I’ve not done a better job sharing this particular magic with my kids all along. Hindsight.
So, in an effort to make up for lost opportunities, our family is finding ways to volunteer to help others, not only during the holidays, but especially during them. In the process, we are rediscovering a deeper meaning to this season together. It feels good.
Not completely selfless
Giving of yourself is a funny thing. You give a little, you get a little. Studies have shown that volunteering increases social connectedness while reducing depression, which is common in the holiday season. And volunteering can even have positive effects on your physical health. A growing body of evidence suggests people can benefit in several ways, including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan. (1) In fact, I was blown away by the plentiful and decisive evidence that those who volunteer are healthier, happier and live longer. (2) If you volunteer regularly, you are not only making the world a better place for others, you are making your mind and body a better place, too.
Sign me up
Most of us don’t need to be sold on the idea of volunteering, we just need help with how and when. Team Better is a great forum for suggestions and networking ideas. There is a chat section to this app that can help you share ideas on a local level. I know that for me, if someone says “how about coming to this drive at the neighborhood food bank and helping out next Saturday?”, I am there! Easy. I didn’t have to think of how to help. The opportunity just presented itself to me. If you don’t use the TB app to chat your ideas, here are some other suggestions that are national organizations, so certainly easy to find within your area.
- Toys for Tots – http://toysfortots.org/Default.aspx
- Feeding America – http://www.feedingamerica.org/?referrer=https://www.google.com/
- If you’re not sure what you would like to do, here is a great site for matching your skills to the needs of others – http://www.volunteermatch.org
This December, my family will spend some time with terminally ill children, doing whatever we can to brighten their days. What a gift that will be to all of us. What will you commit to? We hope you find a way to serve this holiday season, not just for those in need, but for yourself. Happy, happy holidays, team!
***If you need a bit more motivation, or just an incredible pick-me-up this holiday season to get those priorities straight, I cannot recommend this short film enough (can also be found on Netflix): http://www.thehappymovie.com ***
- Stephanie Watson. Volunteering May Be Good for Body and Mind. Harvard Health Publications. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/volunteering-may-be-good-for-body-and-mind-201306266428 June 26, 2013.
- James Hamblin, M.D. The Physiological Power of Altruism. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/12/altruism-for-a-better-body/422280/ Dec.30, 2015.