So you’re out in some mall looking for that perfect gift that someone on your Christmas list would appreciate. Or perhaps you’re sitting in your favourite seat at home tapping your fingers and wrestling with the thought of what the people on your list, ‘need’. If you are like many people I know, many of those on your list don’t, ‘need’ much at all.
Each gift received not only comes with the ribbons, bows, wrapping paper and scotch tape; each gift comes with the message, “I am thinking of you.” The gift may be homemade or store-bought, expensive or not, but still each one says, “I think enough of you that I wanted to present you with something to let you know I appreciate you.” Well something like that anyhow.
Sometimes the gifts we give are given to people we’ll never know personally; people we don’t necessarily want to know personally, but we give them just the same. Take the financial donation or food donation you make to the local food bank; the clothes you donate to the Diabetes Foundation, the change you throw into a Salvation Army kettle or some other charity box.
Maybe – just maybe mind you – you’re like the little drummer boy who doesn’t have any money or items of value to give and you wonder, “What could I do?”
And so, here’s some ideas for giving both during this festive holiday season and for other times of the year.
First and foremost, one of the easiest and free things you can do is acknowledge the presence of the down-and-out, the destitute, the poor, and the homeless when you see them on the street. You and I both know they aren’t invisible. You know they are there because you look everywhere but where they sit or stand as you pass them by without a glance. Maybe just having the courage, assertiveness or whatever it is that you need to look them in the eye and actually give them a slight smile would help them feel visible. Sure it’s a small thing; but it’s a start.
When I was in Toronto this fall I was out with my daughter and some people were handing out free bottles of water on the street. While I drank mine down due to my thirst, my daughter hung on to hers for a few blocks and then without breaking stride set hers down beside a sleeping man on the street. Again, not much, but he awoke with something he didn’t have when he fell asleep.
You can also hold back on your judgement of others; we don’t know what they’ve endured or continue to endure. Even when the decisions they make contribute to their current plight and we would rather they made better decisions, we don’t know what events in their past have shaped their present. They probably have multiple problems, some of which are of their own making. Maybe a little tolerance, a little support, or even holding back from voicing our opinions would be a small start.
You can volunteer your time too if you’ve got it to give but draw the line on contributing financially. Yes, you can join a non-profit organization, contribute your talents in bookkeeping, leadership, organization etc. Helping to guide an organization, support the people who staff it and the users who benefit from its services; do it and if you need something for yourself, add it to your resume. Why not?
If you run a cleaning business, offer free cleaning for people who have job interviews coming up and can’t afford your services because they are jobless at present. If they get a job, think how much they might appreciate your help. If you have that, “why don’t they just get a job?” mentality, you’ll actually help them get one and pay their taxes if your motivation must be so inclined.
You can opt to be more courteous too. It costs nothing to give up your seat on a bus or subway, to actually smile instead of frown, to actually look at people and talk instead of walking around with a perpetual frown. When you enter a fast-food restaurant drive-thru, thank the person who takes your money and gives you your food. Break up their monotony with a ‘thank you! Have a nice day!” or ask them where their smile is. You’ll get a smile immediately and make their day.
That harried check-out Cashier who gets verbally abused by customers who think they alone should be served first and hold up the line examining their bills to make sure they aren’t overcharged? Why not thank them for doing a great job and telling them to forgive that rude person. These folks usually make minimum wage and are people too.
It’s not hard to think of all the small things you; you and I, could do to make the lives of others around us just a tad better. If you see a couple with a dog on the street trying to get by begging for change, don’t forget the dog. If you pass them every day, drop off some dog food every now and then – something they can easily carry. That’s just cool.
When you do any of the above, you send them the message, “I’m thinking of you – you’re not invisible.” Good on you for your act of kindness. You never know what your small act might mean.