Keeping the “Holiday Spirit” in trying times

Channel the spirit of giving this holiday season

B-Town Buzz | Elyse Johnson | December 3, 2015

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Maybe if you’re young, self-centered, or out of touch, you don’t notice–or care about–a lot of sad and angering things going on in the world.

For the rest of us, though, the holiday season of 2015 is heavily affected by the struggles of those around the world. Whether you’re hurting for those in Chicago, Paris, Syria or at home, it can be difficult to feel thankful or to enjoy opening presents/overindulging in food. In my opinion, it’s part of growing up; you learn to care about others and to give your all to improve the lives of people around you. You realize how big the world really is, and how valuable your impact can be.

But as fulfilling these realizations can be, it’s just as exhausting. It’s pretty easy to get caught up in it all and feel helpless. I know, because I feel the same way, and it’s been hard for me to get into the spirit this year.

Luckily, there are some things that you can do this holiday season to improve the lives of others along with your own. When choosing a way to give back, be sure that what you are giving is just as important as what you get in return. (For example, don’t just throw money at a charity you know nothing about to feel good about yourself) These three methods give the opportunity for you to do something special and get in the holiday spirit, while making a big difference to those in need.

Replace “shopping time” with “helping time”

The winter season is a time that many people struggle to make ends meet, whether it be through getting Christmas gifts for their kids or just putting food on the table. A great way to help neighbors during this time is to get out and volunteer. Not every single minute of mid-October through Christmas Day needs to be filled with shopping, especially when Amazon exists. Take the time once a week (or more) to volunteer at a local shelter, soup kitchen, or any other organization that needs your help. A few places in Bloomington that are always looking for volunteers are the Middle Way House, the Hoosier Hills food bank, and the Shalom Community Center. You can also check out the Bloomington Volunteer Network to find out who needs your help to do good.

Not only will you be happier with more money in your wallet and knowing that you’re helping out, but those in need truly appreciate any effort you put forward to make their lives better during the holiday season.

Give back when buying your Christmas gifts

If you do choose to go gift-crazy and buy for everyone you know, consider getting a unique and charitable gift unlike any other. Sites like GlobalGoodsPartners feature beautiful jewelry and other clothing and accessories made by women in other countries being paid fairly for their work, unlike many big department stores who shall remain unnamed. Other organizations like Mercy Corps offer the gift of a donation made in the recipients honor, like $35 towards restoring a farm in a rural community; your recipient gets a card notifying them of the donation, and a community in need gets a useful gift.

Many other non-profits offer similar gifts, so look around and find the perfect present for someone based on their interests. It’s like buying a gift for two people at once!

Donate money and gifts to those who need it more

In a time of year defined by commercialism and material items, it can be tough to remember what all you have already and be mindful of your possessions. Therefore, this is the perfect time to go through what you have and donate, or even buy new things, for others who do not have as much. Gather up your clothes that don’t fit anymore–extra mittens and scarves, shoes you never wear–and send them over to the Shalom Community Center, Goodwill or any other shelter of your choice.  It’s an easy way to clear out your closet for new things and give a new purpose to your old items. You should also stop by and grab hygiene products while you’re shopping for presents at Walmart, because while most of us wouldn’t love getting a toothbrush for Christmas, many people need these items and would be happy to receive them. And if you want to buy toys for kids that may not get any presents this year otherwise? The Toys For Tots program collects toys for kids in need,  and you can drop off the toys at any location listed on the site. Programs and organizations like these exist any and everywhere, and ALL of them need your help!

Don’t forget that when you do important things to improve your holiday spirit, you’re also raising the spirits of those you help. Giving back is the best way to make sure that you and everyone around can enjoy their Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or any other winter celebration!