Around the holidays with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, the release of new and fun toys, Santa (and Elf on the Shelf!), it’s easy to think of giving as an exchange of goods or the purchasing of presents…but it really can, and should, mean so much more than that. Fittingly, today is Giving Tuesday, a day that promotes charitable giving and encourages us to think about organizations and causes that are important to us. I love Giving Tuesday because it reminds me that giving can also be how I consider ways to give my money, time, or energy to the communities that I care about.
I have shared below three different, heartwarming ways to give, inspired by one of my family’s longest standing holiday traditions. Each year on or around Thanksgiving, we discuss and plan for the upcoming holiday season. We have a large family, so we pull names for a “secret Santa” gift exchange, and we also add something extra to the traditional giving of gifts. This extra element changes from year to year, but it always centers around a charitable act or giving back in some way. What I love most about this is it continually pushes me to think differently about what it means to give.
GIVING IDEA 1: This year, my aunt had the idea to lend a hand to her aunt and cousin who lost their house and most of their possessions in a recent wildfire. We all agreed that in addition to bringing a gift for our secret Santa, we will also bring some money to our Christmas celebration (or mail it ahead of time, as it’s looking like we’ll be having a virtual Christmas gift exchange). My aunt will collect what everyone brings and send it to her family members as a holiday gift from all of us.
GIVING IDEA 2: Last year, we decided that everyone would make a donation to a charity on behalf of their secret Santa. I donated to the American Cancer Society for my uncle who was battling brain cancer, my brother donated to the Wounded Warrior Project for my cousin who’s an Army veteran, and my dad donated to the Sierra Club for my aunt who loves hiking and the outdoors. It was so fun to see the different causes and organizations that everyone chose to honor their secret Santa.
GIVING IDEA 3: The year before that, everybody did one random act of kindness in the weeks leading up to Christmas. When we gave our gifts on Christmas morning, we shared with the family what we had done for our act. People shared about buying a jacket and boots for a homeless man who lived on the street outside their office, bringing a Christmas tree and toys to an inner-city family who didn’t have the means to buy their own and spending a Sunday morning picking up trash on the beach with a volunteer group.
Over the years, this family tradition has shown me that there is so much value in thinking outside the box and being creative with what it really means to give. It has also shown me that you don’t necessarily need to spend money to be able to give. Some of the greatest gifts I have ever received were when someone put thought and care into planning something for us to do together. With 2020 being an interesting year for all of us, I hope this has helped show some different ways to think about giving gifts to family or friends this year. Whether it’s today on Giving Tuesday or in the coming weeks as you prepare for the holidays, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what giving means to you and how you can give to others in meaningful ways.
As we enter the holiday season and begin to think about giving gifts, consider a unique gift that will show your appreciation for someone. Check out this month’s Activity of the Month Appreciation Windows for an example.
- Assign each participant the name of another group member to create an appreciation window for.
- Facilitator Note: An easy way to do this is to have everyone write their name on a slip of paper, collect the slips, and redistribute them to the participants (reminding them to put the slip back if they pick their own name). Or, make a pre-make a list with a name assigned to each participant or partner participants up to create windows for each other.
- Have group members decorate a piece of paper to create a “window“ for the participant they were assigned. The window should contain the participant’s name, something they appreciate about that participant, and any decorations they would like to add.
- Give participants ten minutes to complete their windows and play appropriate music while the group creates.
- After everyone has created their window, have participants share with the group one at a time.
*Meet the Author*
Morgan is the Program Coordinator for Leadership Inspirations. He has a B.A. in Integrated Educational Studies and an M.A. in Leadership Development from Chapman University.
Favorite quote: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end” – John Lennon
Fun facts: 1) I once trained my pet goldfish to play basketball 2) When I was little I wanted to be a Disneyland parking attendant 3) I’m a big Justin Timberlake fan