A few nights ago, I woke up at 1:00 in the morning to feed our baby, which has been pretty typical the past few weeks. After she was fed and back to sleep, I went to bed and tried to calm my racing mind enough to get some rest.
With all my tossing and turning, my husband woke too, and we found ourselves in the best conversation. No, it wasn’t about politics. It wasn’t about our work, or upcoming events, or even about our daughter.
We stayed up for 3 hours, in the middle of the night, talking about how extremely lucky we are to have the lives we do and how we could use our own blessings to change someone else’s life.
Now, this wasn’t the first time we have talked about wanting to give back or help others. We honestly talk about it all the time. But, our actions usually fall short of our words, simply because life gets busy and we forget. It’s a ridiculous excuse, but it’s true. And, I’m sure so many can relate to that same feeling.
There’s something about the holidays that really makes people take a step back and reflect on just how lucky they are in this life. What may seem like huge problems in our own lives- a messy house, sleepless nights, a cranky boss, an argument with a friend- are really small compared to what others face. And, when you think about some of your problems compared to theirs, you may see your life with clearer eyes and a softer heart.
After our middle-of-the-night conversation, my husband and I began looking for ways we could give back in our own community. Since most, if not all, of you don’t live in the same community as us, our specific list may not be that helpful to you. But, there are organizations in your own community that would love to have your help! It’s just a matter of reaching out and taking that first step.
If you’re hesitant to help due to financial hardships, don’t let that hold you back! Many, many organizations rely on volunteers to keep their services available. Money is only a part of giving back. Time is something that can be far more valuable.
Here’s a list of some suggestions to help get you started:
- Salvation Army– This is commonly one of the first ones that pops into our minds during the holidays, because they are usually the ones outside the stores ringing the bells. But, they do so much more than that. Check out their website for opportunities in your area!
- Red Cross– Another big one that we sometimes forget about, but they are everywhere! And, they can always use your donations.
- Volunteer or donate to your local food pantry– It’s sad to think that there are families who don’t have food in our country. In the land of the iPhone, big screen TV’s, and all-you-can-eat buffets, some kids struggle to get one warm meal a day. If you choose to make a donation, stick around and help distribute the food. It will open your eyes to just how important that donation of yours really is!
- Serve meals at a local shelter.
- Scoop your neighbors driveway after a big snow storm this winter.
- Prepare and deliver a warm meal to someone you know who needs it- After the passing of my grandfather a few weeks ago, I can tell you that this one is received very warmly by those who are hurting.
- Reach out to your local Veterans Affairs office and volunteer to help a veteran.
- Help out at the local animal shelter.
- Start an action group in your church for community service- Our church dedicates a Sunday to this every couple of months. Rather than having service that day, the congregation chooses between 5 or 6 projects to work on, whether it be preparing meals, sewing, assembling supplies, or going out in the community to work.
- Prepare care packages for your local hospital.
- Volunteer or donate to the American Cancer Society.
- If your child receives a duplicate toy for Christmas, donate it to Toys for Tots. Or, just pick an extra up while you’re out doing your shopping!
- Mentor a child through a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters, or something similar within your own community.
- Sponsor a child- My husband and I began sponsoring a child in honor of our babies we lost due to miscarriage. We sponsor through Compassion, but there are many other programs available. Do your research to find the one that suits you!
- Choose a cause that is near and dear to your heart, and donate your time or money. If you feel passionately about a cause, go out and take action!
A useful site to help find opportunities in your own backyard based on your interests is VolunteerMatch.org.
Not only is giving back a lesson that all of us can use right now, but we should also involve our children. Let them witness first hand the hurt that goes on in our world. Not through social media or on the TV, but in real life. Beyond the comfort of our own homes.
Rather than us trying to be the ones who ARE right all the time, why don’t we try being the ones who DO right for a change?