by Monica Palmer
Around the time the pumpkin-spice lattes find their way on to coffee shop menus, many of us begin to emerge from a sort of self-centered slumber. We open our eyes and awaken to the reality that there are a lot of struggling people around us. We see the need, and we are prompted to give. THAT is what truly makes the holiday season the most wonderful time of the year.
So, why aren’t we geared up for giving in March or May or July? What is it about the holiday season that has us smiling as we drop our dollars in the kettles or as we fill the food bank barrels that sit empty throughout the better part of the year?
There aren’t more people in need during the holiday season. There is simply more willingness to open our eyes and see them.
Imagine if we could stay in this giving frame of mind all year long. Think of the drastic change that could be possible.
This Thursday, as you sit around a table with your loved ones, give thanks for your blessings, and start a conversation about giving. Try brainstorming ways to help others all year long.
Don’t let this Thanksgiving be the start of a six-week wonderful time of year. Instead, let it be the start of a wonderful life…full of giving.
Here are a few ideas to get some giving on your calendar for the other ten months of the year:
Honor Martin Luther King Jr’s memory by finding out the dreams of some of your neighbors in need. Volunteer at a place where you can meet and talk to the people you’re helping. Get to know them as equals not others.
It’s still generally very cold in Missouri during the month of February, and a lot of area seniors have to make tough choices between keeping the heat on or paying for groceries. Consider celebrating Valentine’s Day by sharing some love with a program that feeds seniors in your area.
Spring Break means a week of no school, and for a lot of kids, that means a week with no school lunches. That’s critical, because for many food insecure kids, that lunch is their only reliable meal. Contact a local pantry or food bank to see how you can help pack meals for local students.
Spring cleaning often mean shopping for parents of growing kids, because the shorts, t-shirts and sandals that fit last year are now too small. A lot of people think to donate warm clothes in the colder months, but warm-weather clothes are greatly appreciated as well.
School lets out in May for most schools, and then the brain drain begins. Help start or join in an existing story time or math club for kids at your local library. Keep kids learning all summer-long.
Share your athletic talents by volunteering to coach or assist teams at your community YMCA, Red Cross or other civic organization.
A lot of low-income families send their kids to summer school, so they can continue to get the school lunches through the month of June, but July through mid-August can be some of the toughest times of food uncertainty for Missouri families. Find a local summer feeding program and volunteer your time or help provide meals.
Missouri summers are hot and HUMID. This makes things especially uncomfortable for people who are living out of their cars or temporary housing. Collect hotel shampoos and soaps, and create hygiene kits for homeless people in your community. You can hand them out directly, or you can work with a local shelter to give them to people who need them.
Grandparents’ day is the first Sunday of September after Labor Day. Adopt a grandparent at your local nursing home or senior residence. Take them a care basket and spend some time visiting with them. You can learn a lot about life through this simple act of kindness.
Take new and gently used Halloween costumes to a local children’s shelter. Even in the midst of great turmoil, kids are still kids, and they love to dress up for Halloween.