I always enjoyed giving gifts to people… for birthdays or holidays, it always felt good to be able to give. When I was maybe 10 or 12 years old, my family put together our first Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. I remember feeling so nervous and yet excited. Would I be giving a useful gift? And yet it just felt so good to be giving. Today’s Homemade Holiday isn’t about a craft for you to make, but about something you can do on your own or with your family to help you get in the holiday spirit and to remind yourself from the get-go what this season is all about… the giving spirit.
Last week, the kids and I went out to do a bit of shopping for Operation Christmas Child. We don’t do it every year, but I wanted to make a point of doing it this year. Since the kids recently started earning an allowance, I had them all chip in a little bit of their own money so that we could put together a couple of shoe boxes for kids in need. It’s amazing how much the kids always get into this project. After we picked up the supplies for filling up our boxes, the kids wrote letters to the children that the boxes will be going to, and they made cards to send to the kids as well.
If you want to participate in Operation Christmas Child, check out Samaritan’s Purse to find out where you can drop off the boxes and what kinds of things to put into the boxes. Collections go from the 12th-19th of November so that there is enough time for the presents to get overseas in time for the holidays. You can also find out more by checking out their Facebook page. Hobby Lobby has “shoe boxes” for sale near the doors when you come in, and they carry a list of items that might be good to pack into your boxes. I often have shoe boxes at home, but if I don’t I’ll pick up one of their boxes.
I try to make a point of carrying cash at least some of the time during the holiday season because it means I’ll have something to stick into the red buckets of the Salvation Army when I’m out shopping. Maybe it’s my spare change, and maybe it’s something more, but I know that the money is going to a good cause. Besides just putting money in the bucket, you might want to consider donating your time to ringing bells. The Salvation Army is always looking for bell-ringers. I did one year before we moved, and I really enjoyed it.
I think nearly every year, we end up putting at a toy into the Toys for Tots boxes. Most stores will have boxes for Toys for Tots gifts, and lots of schools or businesses will have boxes for toys in exchange for free admission to different events. Look for boxes near the check-outs at the store!
Trying to come up with new ways to give this year? Food pantries are always looking for more food this time of year. If you can’t get to a food drop off yourself, some grocery stores sell pre-packaged bags of groceries at different price points that get donated to the food pantries as well. I think most collections for Coats for Kids are closed now, but you can always keep your eyes open, and places like the Salvation Army or St. Vincent de Paul will take those donations and either hand them out as needed, or sell them very inexpensively to those in need.
Some of the churches in our area have something like “Christmas Stars” or “Christmas Angels” that you can pick up. They will have a tree with “ornaments” that have a list of needs or wants for local people who are struggling, but they keep the receiver anonymous, only giving an age and gender.
Don’t forget that little acts can go a long way. A letter or a card to somebody you know who is feeling lonely, a meal for a family that is going through a hard time, or a plate of cookies or a loaf of bread for a friend, family, or neighbor, just to let them know you care. Giving somebody a ride to church, shoveling a sidewalk, helping somebody prepare for the winter months… all of these things an mean the world to somebody! And don’t forget about our men and women overseas or away from home! Boxes can take a long time to get to them, even nowadays, so plan ahead, and get those packages mailed out ASAP! Even if you don’t know somebody personally who is deployed, you can get connected with soldiers through sites like Soldier’s Angels to let them know you care. There are sites that have specific programs for sending Christmas Cards, including the Red Cross.
Do you and yours ever do anything to give of your time, money, or talents this time of year (or even beyond)? Are there programs I forgot to mention (I know there are definitely some out there)? I know that soup kitchens are out there, and that there are many different ways to give. Have you been wanting to try something new, but been afraid? Don’t be! You’re being called to be a blessing to others!