So I don’t want to panic anyone, but there are only TWELVE MORE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS. Yes, I do realize that that was the opposite of how I should’ve broken that news if my intention was not to panic you, but it’s all I’ve got.
Anyway, in light of this fact, I wanted to propose something to help relieve some of the inevitable stress that one can feel around this time of year. Help bring some joy and make a small difference in the process! So at the risk of sounding preachy, here it is:
For the last 12 days of Christmas, do one thing every day for someone you don’t know. Give back. Pay it forward. Let’s teach our kids by being their example.
It doesn’t have to cost much money and your act of kindness and generosity will have a ripple effect. In the hopes of sounding like Oprah, I know this to be true. Below are some examples of what you can do today and over the next several to spread a little joy, a little hope, a little peace, kindness, and love. It’s Christmas, after all. So mix these up, add your own, and spread the word! Also, please share with me what you’re doing so you can inspire me with your ideas! Mama’s helping mamas. It’s what we do, after all!
Say Thank You. If you follow me on social media, you may have seen my post from a few days ago about leaving out some snacks for our delivery people. Mama – I for sure get judged for the amount of Amazon packages that come to my door nearly daily. And not just at this time of year, but all year ‘round…..and so I wanted to say thank you for literally coming to my porch every day and dropping off the diapers and books and bath mats and other random stuff that I’ve 2-day Express delivered to myself. I’ve seen some examples using cookies and candy – I opted for cheesy chips and popcorn – and I even got an in-person thank you for our mail carrier yesterday who said that it made his day! Mission Accomplished and you can use one of the million plastic or wooden toy bins I know you already have in your house, mama.
Give Back to Those Who Need It. Twice a year, we donate to the Pajama Program. $10 will buy a pair of pajamas and a book for a kid who otherwise might not have them. And as someone who has written on here more than once about our own bedtime routines, their mission seems so simple. I urge you to go check them out online and read about their mission and all of the different opportunities they provide you to help give back. And if you regularly shop at Carters, they participate in this program, too, so you can always donate through them next time you’re in the store!
Think ahead. Next time you’re at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, pay for the person’s coffee or donut who is behind you. Just tell the person at the register that you’d like to buy the next person’s fill-in-the-blank for them and have them add $5 to your bill.
Adopt a Family. Many local organizations and religious groups can help you sponsor a family in your area to shop for over the holiday season. Use some of your family’s designated holiday money to buy or make gifts for another family in need. If you’re looking for a good place to start, click here.
Drink Coffee at Home For the Rest of the Year. If you’re like me, you can easily drop $20 or more a week on coffee, if you’re not paying attention. And if that’s you, take that money you would’ve spent on coffee or lunch during from now until the end of the year, look up children’s hospitals in your area, and see if they take new toy or financial donations – many take both. Then, go to a Five Below or Target, stock up on as many toys as your coffee money will buy you, and drop those off to said hospital. Many have an entire branch devoted to these kinds of donations and will gladly work with you for the drop-off.
Put your Cooking Skills to Work! Or, if you’re me, put your food-ordering skills to work! About two years ago, we signed up to cook a meal at the Ronald McDonald House with the kids. My mother- and sister-in-law also came to help, which was a Godsend to these people who were suffering enough and didn’t need my bland cooking at the end of their day. It was a bit chaotic with a then-2.5-year-old and baby in a car seat, but we made it work. However, it is a big time commitment and tough to juggle with young kids who are anything but helpful. So, since then, once a quarter, we donate a meal instead, which I’m sure they’d much rather have since that’s actually cooked by professionals. Anyway. I’m not suggesting you try to squeeze this in a week before Christmas – what I am suggesting is picking a date on the calendar before Spring and signing up to either go cook or send a meal. They make it so easy to do. Here’s the link we’ve used for the Ronald McDonald House, which gives you lots of other opportunities outside of a meal, if you’re interested. There are also lots of other local places all over the country that do similar work – for example, my parents volunteer here where they also offer a very similar option. Check it out, look around your area, and figure out what might work best for your family and your budget.
Put Your Amazon Skills to Good Use! It’s obscene how much I use our Amazon Prime membership. But also? This is my moment, I can finally use those click and buy skills for good! Look up your local shelter and see if they have an Amazon Wish List of supplies they need to keep running – many do and they make it so easy. We just donated a bunch of diapers and maxi pads to a local shelter via their wish list, and I keep their list handy every few months, double-checking to see what seems to be the most needed – click, buy. If you’re unsure where to start, click here.
Get the whole family involved! Put a basket or one of the empty Amazon boxes that I know you have in your living room or in a spot that everyone passes all day long. Explain to your kids that this is the Box of Joy - I’ve explained it to my kids that it’s “The Box for Babies” and they’ve loved it. It’s a box that they can fill with the toys they no longer play with or have never touched, the toys they’ve grown out of because they’re such big kids now. Then, depending on the shape of the toys, find a friend, relative, neighbor who might be able to use these toys plus check out these organizations that take gently used toys. Now let’s be clear – there are some toys I’ll keep for forever and ever because they will always remind me of when I had little, cute babies. So there are some toys you never ever have to give away. But let’s be real – most of us are lucky enough to have friends and family that spoil our kids rotten, hence, the need to teach them early and often the importance of giving back. Plus, it’s a secret way to get your kids to help you clean and de-clutter but seems like a fun game – win/win!
Think ahead…again. It’s been a week since you’ve bought someone’s coffee! And even though you’ve stopped buying your coffee out for the rest of the year, obvi, next time you’re at the deli or picking up a few things at your local grocery store and are standing in the 10 items or less aisle, help someone out and throw an extra $5 or $10 onto your tab for the next guy.
Helping Seniors. When I was in high school and even into college, I worked in a retirement home and absolutely loved it. But one of the things I was so keenly aware of, even as a self-centered teenager, was that some of the residents there didn’t have family. Either their families lived far away, close by and were too busy, or some other, sadder reasons. Either way, though, your local nursing home and senior living facilities are always welcoming of donations that they need. If you’re not sure where to start, click here for some ideas. And if you can, get your kids to color some pictures or make cards to drop off with the donations – those are always big crowd pleasers, especially if your kid still writes backwards and it’s completely incoherent…extra adorable!
Say Thank…Again. Bake a casserole, lasagna, brownies, or cookies for your local firehouse or police station. Get the kids involved if you want it to take you twice as long (but lessons, giving back, yadda yadda…) and then go there as a family to drop off you treats! This is always well-received and appreciated!
Dealer’s Choice! Today is your day to be creative! Maybe a local animal shelter has immediate needs and you can donate to them? (many also have Amazon lists, just like above). Maybe you have a neighbor or friend who is single-parenting and could use 2-3 hours to her/himself. Offer some free babysitting, ask them to go get a mani/pedi with you (your treat!), or think of some other creative ways you can help your friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.
What are some things you guys have done over the years to give back? If I've learned anything about my readers this past year, it's that you guys rock. So please share your ideas with me so I can bring my A-Game all year long!