I am not ready for the holidays. Let me be clear, I’m usually not ready for the holidays, but this year is worse. Political tension meets pandemic meets economic uncertainty? Yeah, stick a fork in me, I am done with 2020.
But since our preschooler has been looking forward to Christmas since…oh, probably July, we’re getting into the holiday spirit by driving past the Gaddy’s to peek at the decorations going up and talking a lot about the importance of giving. She’s four, so this can be tricky, but honestly, I feel like it’s tricky with kids of any age.
Fitting giving and community involvement into an already-over packed schedule can feel impossible, but often it’s about finding the right giving opportunity or the right community involvement for you and your family.
So with that in mind, we’ve brainstormed some options for y’all. I hope you find them helpful.
While Meals on Wheels may be one of Atlanta’s best-known meal delivery services for seniors, many local churches and neighborhood groups have similar programs. Volunteer positions usually involve driving, but schedules are often flexible, making it easier to fit this giving opportunity into a busy life.
You have a teenager who needs to practice driving? This might be a great fit. He gets practice. You get to ride along next to him. You both get one-on-one time with each other.
Not quite what you had in mind? Look closer to home. City Bridges Food Bank in Peachtree City and Fairburn is always looking for volunteers to help with their school and community outreach events.
Or look even closer to home to see if your neighbors need help. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. We know one mom who doubles whatever freezable casserole recipe she’s making
for that week and takes the second casserole to a neighbor. Considering how hectic the holidays are, being able to reach for a ready-to-go dinner is a small—but certainly much appreciated—luxury.
This is another great opportunity for kids to help out, too. Not only will they see your generosity in action, but they’ll get to work on their cooking skills, and you won’t have to worry (as much) when they’re off to college.
If your grocery budget is tight or you don’t like cooking, fear not. Perhaps the best gift you can give this season is your time and a listening ear. Even before coronavirus changed the landscape of normal, many senior citizens suffered from loneliness. Now, it’s even worse. You may know someone who would enjoy an hour or two with you, but if you don’t, Fayette Senior Services could be a great starting point.
That said, you may not feel comfortable interacting with people so closely, and it’s completely understandable. Collecting litter, weeding at your local community garden, or planting trees are all excellent for solo work.
You’re not really a people person? I get that. Lucky for you, there are so many great options to pitch in and help out especially if you’re an animal lover. One of my personal favorite rescues is Homeless Pets Foundation in Marietta. They’re saving the world one dog or cat at a time, and while financial donations are always welcomed, volunteers are the foundation’s backbone—as they are with all rescue groups. If you can clean a cage, walk a dog, or hold a cat, you’ll find no end of opportunities. It’s hard work, but also incredibly rewarding.
Sometimes though it just doesn’t feel like the holidays without some gift giving, and we are lucky to have so many worthy organizations to choose from. You can drop off new, unwrapped toys at any Toys for Tots location, donate anything from school supplies to new shoes with the Samaritan’s
Purse Christmas Shoebox, or pick an at-need family through the Salvation Army or Angel Tree.
For us, making Christmas happen for someone else has worked really well. We spend time talking with our preschooler about the recipient, using his/her bio so the experience feels more authentic and less like giving presents to a faceless person. She loves picking out her donation and making sure her recipient gets what he/she wants.
A family friend with two teenage boys has a cool variation on this. Instead of picking out a present to give, though, her boys pick out a cause they want to support. It always kickstarts a great dialogue. She loves hearing their thoughts and feelings—things they’re maybe not the best about sharing the rest of the year.
In many ways, their donation gift is a gift to themselves as well since they get to have these family moments. She’s proud to encourage their community activism, and she looks forward to seeing what they’ll support next. It brings them closer together—a necessary part of fitting giving and volunteering into a busy family’s schedule no matter the time of year, but especially important around the holidays.
In truth though, most of these examples can bring your family closer together if you find a cause you believe in. And isn’t that closeness the best thing about the holidays anyway?