I have heard so many stories recently from friends, family, and strangers alike who are going through some really difficult times. Financial strain, loss of a loved one, illness, family problems, etc. There are many who are hurting, and it can especially hit hard during Christmas. This always weighs heavy on my heart, but this year, I resolved to talk less and act more.
What started as a facebook thread expressing this resolution, turned into a surprisingly awe inspiring day for me as I read comments and received emails from readers who have chosen to do something for their neighbors and communities this year. It moved me to tears. Big and small things alike. I am going to share some of them with you here, in hopes it will inspire you as well to do small things with great love this advent season. I am pretty sure BIG things can result because of it.
(photo by my talented sister Angela, quote source ?)
"I'm paying it forward! Every time I go through the drive-thru, paying for the persons behind me & serving a few hours a week." - Amanda
I'm going to get some shoes and possibly a little jacket (it's getting cool here) for the little talibe that is always outside the kids school. I usually give him a few coins every day so he can warn earn his bread but he really needs clothes and shoes In the US we always do toy drives and volunteer at shelters. The need here is so great it's hard to know where to start. - Ashley
We want our child(ren) to know what it's like to spend their own "hard-earned" money to buy a gift for a child their age and give it to him/her personally. In return, they will receive something for Christmas on an equal level. - Hannah
(Claudia at the Okinawa-shi is Airen-En Orphanage in Japan)
I live in Japan and the culture that they have towards children with disabilities and/or in need is very secretive. After much CIA style kind of research and networking, I finally got to visit an orphanage. Now I go every other saturday and spend there from 8-12 with a group of volunteers. We teach the kiddos english and we just love them. It is so rewarding, it is indeed a reality check. We have such a blessed life! Giving is the best gift for us!!! - Claudia
All throughout the year, we donate to our food bank and for Christmas, we donate to the Mission - Christmas dinners. They provide the placemats that will be used and we can write a note of encouragement and love on them. - Emily
I got a gift card in the mail, went to Kohl's, and didn't find what I was looking for. I thought about just trying to find something else, but then an idea popped into my mind. I went up to the register and handed it to a lady with two daughters. It was AWESOME to feel the paradox of 'the more you give, the more you have'. - Katy
How about giving someone handmade "gift cards" of ways you can think of to serve them & then making them promise to cash them in before the end of Dec or end of Jan? Like a night of babysitting, a closet clearing partner, a yoga dvd buddy. Things that wouldn't cost much money on your part, just time, & would possibly also lead to more time with that person just in a very intentional way. - Hilary
I have a friend who really felt called to help with the victims of hurricane Sandy that are facing the holiday's with nothing. She did some research and ended up connecting with a parish near the Jersey Shore that has 3 different facilities housing people and is in need of help. My friend (Jessica ) Gutierrez) got a 24 foot truck donated and is working on filling it with supplies which she will herself drive to church on December 14th. -JoAnna
All of these comments have literally made me weep. You are all such a blessing to our cold, tough world. THANK YOU and THANK GOD FOR YOU and for your efforts. You are the true spirit of Christmas. - Christina
(artwork by Lena Hanzel)
Having two little ones may limit it me in how or where I can serve, but they are my first project. To love my family, brothers, sisters, parents, neighbors, and friends. Often we are the ones that need the most love, right?
Hurricane Sandy "Fill the Truck" Project - (thank you to my parish and JoAnna for the heads up!) A woman in our area was inspired to directly help Hurricane Sandy victims on the east coast. She got a 24 foot truck donated she is trying to fill with supplies by Dec. 14th to be taken to a church in New Jersey. It will then be handed to victims in need. I am hoping to rally help for this from friends and neighbors. If you are in the Atlanta area, feel free to email me for more info on the supplies needed.
Handwritten Christmas Notes to Friends - not just a family photo (in fact we aren't even doing those this year), but an old school handmade card with hand written notes to new and old friends alike. (thank you Hilary for the idea!)
Knocking on the doors of neighbors - Its so easy even in the friendly south to go months without seeing or talking to neighbors. I am determined to knock on their door, say hello and bake their way into their hearts. We all need a smile and reminder that we matter.
Giving Tree - There is a tree at our church that was filled with requests from local needy children. Shoes, cribs, socks, coats...I wanted to take them all, but my friends and I were able to get a small bunch of them and shop for what they needed. Sometimes I wish I were rich so I could do things like buy that little giving tree out of stock!
Our Landlord knocked $200 off our rent! It pretty much made our year. What we are going to do with that money? Address the list above. We have a whole list of people we have been wanting to help. God never can be outdone in generosity.
What about you? I would love to hear your ideas. My list is open for growth. These readers above reminded me how much goodness is in humanity. Hope you will join me in spreading Tidings of Good Will this year:)
* If you are doing acts of service in the next few weeks. Tweet with the hashtag #TidingsofGoodWill and you can check out and be encouraged by others doing the same!