Helping at the Holidays
by Ileen Henderson, National Director of Bright Spaces
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
~ Mother Theresa
While searching for a story to illustrate helping the homeless and others impacted by the trauma of poverty at the holidays, I found this article from the Peoria Journal Star about how Bright Horizons employees from the Little Friends Early Education and Preschool and other volunteers in Chicago teamed up to prepare and deliver Thanksgiving meals to elderly, shut ins, and others on Thanksgiving. Bringing the gift of food and a smile gives the best gift to both the recipient as well as the donor. This connection with another human being is often the most urgent and essential need of those living in the margins of our society, such as the aged, the poor, and the homeless.
Many of us have so much going on at the holidays that the urge to give back to others in need is lost in the hustle and bustle. The scope of the need in our communities can also seem overwhelming. The best gift is, of course, the hardest to give – our time. It is the most valuable thing we have, and at the holidays it is even more scarce and precious.
Many of us cannot stop and pull ourselves out of our lives in order to be present, and be a present for another person, because the world is spinning too quickly and our responsibilities seem so overwhelming. But for someone who is alone and lonely at the holidays, one hour in one day in one week in a year full of self-involvement can touch you and your family deeply. Consider bringing your family with you to serve dinner, play games, and create a celebration for others. You will be giving the greatest gift, not only to someone in need in your community, but also to your children, as they learn compassion and empathy. The glow of the smile you bring to someone’s face will give you a feeling that will stay with you long past the holiday season.
If you need inspiration, check out this story about people who have chosen to share their time and talent as part of their daily lives. Or consider hosting a donation drive for needed winter items, or a Brightening Lives Activity to share the talents and skills of your workplace or community with others. It is as simple as calling an agency near your home or work and asking them what they need for their children and families. Then gather your family and friends together to make that happen. Or check out our valued partner, HearUs, publication, The Charlie Book, with 60 ways to help homeless kids throughout the year.
Remember that the need to give and receive that feeling of connection goes past December 31. In January and February, all of the local support agencies will need you more than ever as those long winter months draw on, and the community goes on about its work-a-day business. Your efforts – large and small –ripple out touching more people than you know in ways you cannot even imagine. Happy Holidays to all of you, and thank you for whatever you are able to do for others.