It’s a popular phrase that is used a lot at this time of the year, “the spirit of giving”. But how many of us stop to think about what these 4 little words really mean? And then of those, how many go one step further and actually do some truly meaningful giving?

For most of us, the kind of giving that we do at Christmas revolves around gifts bought at the shops for loved ones, friends, teachers and colleagues. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with that. The act of exchanging gifts is a well-worn Christmas tradition and forms an all-important part of “the spirit of giving”.

 

But what about those in our community who don’t have the resources, capacity or relationships to take part in this kind of giving and receiving? What can we do to extend the true spirit of giving as far and wide as possible throughout our community?

There are so many ways that you can do your part to share some much needed Christmas sparkle and often it doesn’t require much more than a warm heart and some of your time.

 

If you’re thinking that perhaps you’d like to do something in this way, but you tell yourself that you’re already way too busy and couldn’t possibly find time, perhaps you could find that little bit of extra motivation by picturing what it would mean to you if the roles were reversed and it was you, or someone close to you, that needed a little Christmas cheer. Suddenly there is a shift in your priority list and what really is important.

It’s cost nothing to give your time

Think about where and how you’d like to give your time to any of the many, many worthy causes at this time of year.

The obvious choices here point to volunteering for a local charity, nursing home or hospital. These important parts of our community can always do with an extra pair of hands, and even more so at Christmas time. It could be as simple as spending some time with the residents or patients to lift their spirits, or if you have specific skills – anything from building, to accounting or performing – see how you can offer and use your skills to make a difference. No matter how small, everything counts.

 

Volunteering for formal organisations is not the only option though. Maybe you know a mother with a new baby who can’t get out of the house to do her Christmas shopping or your elderly neighbor needs a hand putting up their Christmas tree. Maybe a colleague is feeling particularly lonely and could do with a coffee or drink and a friendly chat.

 

Never underestimate the impact and value that giving someone a few quality minutes of your time can have.

Everything old is new again

This one is especially pertinent if you have children in the house, but the premise works for anyone really.

The nature of the gift-giving beast at Christmas means that we often welcome a lot of new “things” into our homes. Use the lead up to Christmas as an opportunity to clear out all the toys, books, clothes (and anything else that you have too many of) that you no longer use or need and donate them to one of the many toy drives or charity organisations.

 

Use this activity not just to clean out your home but also to teach your children, and remind yourself, about the importance of sharing what we have with those who aren’t as fortunate.

The same premise can be applied to your Christmas decorations. As you pull out your decorations and decide what you are going to use this year, ask yourself which decorations you haven’t used for a while and perhaps don’t need anymore and share them with someone in your community. It might be a family you are aware of, or perhaps award at the local hospital or nursing home. These places usually have little to no funding for Christmas decorations and often the hard-working staff uses their own money to make the place as festive as possible, so no doubt any little help they could get in this area would be very much appreciated. There are some truly amazing people giving so selflessly of themselves that we should take what little opportunity we have to show our appreciation and support.

 

It goes without saying that donations of food items and money or vouchers at this time of year go a long way to making a big difference to someone’s Christmas experience.

Pay it forward

Giving something extra out into the community at Christmas time does not have to be an extravagant or exhausting affair. Quite the opposite, in fact. The true spirit of Christmas is about giving selflessly without the expectation of receiving anything in return.

Your act of Christmas giving might be letting the mum with the screaming toddler in front of you in the supermarket line, or paying for a stranger’s cup of coffee or helping out at the school Christmas concert.

Whatever it is that you choose to do, know that you have made a positive difference in someone’s life with that simple action, no matter how big or small the gesture.

All of these types of actions are the kind of things that we should be doing for our fellow humans on a regular basis, at any time of the year, not just at Christmas. Perhaps we don’t do it anywhere near as much as we should but the spirit of the festive season, when the hardships of life are felt a little more strongly, is the perfect time to look beyond ourselves to how we can shine a light in someone else’s world, even if for a moment.

How will you embrace the spirit of giving this Christmas?