The Gift of Giving Back: Selfless Acts and Simple Ways to Help Others This Holiday Season

‘Tis better to give than to get — we’ve all heard this sentiment before. For generations we’ve been told that it’s better and more rewarding to give to others than it is to get stuff for ourselves. Roll your eyes all you want, but your mother/grandmother/insert wise relative or role model here was right. It really is so much more special and fulfilling to do something good for other people, expecting nothing in return other than the knowledge that you did what you could to help. But somewhere in the chaos of holiday season prep mode, many of us have lost sight of that. 

Perhaps we’re busy with work or overwhelmed by holiday party invites and long gift lists for “Santa.” Maybe it all started to get lost when we had kids, and those kids started watching TV commercials promoting the latest and greatest overpriced toy on the market. Somewhere in the madness of it all, we stopped focusing on how we can all give back and we started focusing far too much on a less valuable kind of giving (and getting).

We’re not suggesting that you shouldn’t give to people you love. Quite the opposite, actually. We’re not saying you should abandon all gift-giving and holiday shopping or that you should deny people you care about the special treats they would love and appreciate. Nobody likes a scrooge and we are far too fond of the joy that holiday giving can bring to friends and family of all ages. But we are suggesting that there’s more to the holidays than just what you buy, what you wrap, and how many boxes are under the tree. 

One of the best gifts is to give back, and the best part about it is that it doesn’t have to cost you a penny to make others smile. We’ve rounded up some of the best ways to give back and the most meaningful selfless acts you should try this holiday season. It’s no secret that this world could use a major dose of joy and love, and we could all benefit from simple acts of giving to others during the holidays (and all the days that follow).

Give the Gift of Philanthropy 

Giving back is great, but empowering others to give back as well is truly selfless and powerful. Organizations such as TisBest encourage such gifting and helps empower people to support causes they’re passionate about. And it’s such a simple step — all you do is give someone a TisBest Charity Gift Card, which works like any other gift card, except that instead of buying stuff, the recipient spends their gift by supporting a charity of their choice. Recipients can choose from a wide range of over 300 curated charities covering causes such as animals, children & youth, disaster relief, environmental protection, human rights, and more. The idea behind this influential movement is that giving this gift inspires others to think about what really matters to them, how they want to help, and then take action to give back to those causes. Your gift isn’t just a donation to charity, but it is giving the gift of philanthropy to others who will become the future generation of charitable givers. 

Donate Your Time in Your Community 

Giving Back Volunteer Holiday Time BELatina

Look into local volunteering opportunities in your local community. From soup kitchens to toy drives to wrapping presents or dressing up as Santa Claus, there’s no shortage of chances to help others this holiday season. You can offer to help a neighbor hang their lights or decorate their Christmas tree, or you can participate in a food drive to help feed the hungry. No amount of effort is too small and no amount of time is insignificant. Just get involved and give back in any capacity that feels right to you.

Make Giving a Family Affair

Sure, giving your time, your hard-earned money, and even your support is a worthwhile and incredibly rewarding effort at any time of year. But this holiday season try to extend your reach and make your giving a family affair. Share your passions with your loved ones. Teach them how to give back to others and invite them to come with you on your volunteering efforts. Show them how good it can feel to help and give back and consider the possibility that spreading that message and teaching your loved ones to pay it forward might just be the greatest gift of all. Plus, you’ll create memories and instill positive values of empathy and generosity that will last a lifetime.

Adopt a Family for the Holidays

Adopt a Family BELatina

One key theme of the holiday season is gratitude — for what we have and what we are able to enjoy in our lives. We all look around our dinner table or across the room at the crazy crew we get to call family or friends and we give thanks. We recognize that we are lucky enough to have food to enjoy, that we are healthy, that we have loved ones to snuggle and opportunities to thrive. Perhaps we recognize that not everyone is quite so lucky, and not everyone has such a support system of loved ones to gather with. This year consider “adopting” a family and inviting them to join you for a holiday meal. Reach out to a neighbor who lives far from family, or a friend at work who is alone this season. Extend an invitation to the new kid in town or a friend who has just lost a loved one. Sometimes it’s not what you give, but just allowing others to be a part of the love as you celebrate with people you care about.

For Every Gift You Get, Give One Back

In our house we have a tradition that takes place at every birthday and every holiday gathering; for every gift we get, we give one back. We go through our clothes or toys that we no longer use, and we donate items to people in need. We go to the store and pick out one toy to bring to a toy drive at a local hospital or toy drive for families in need. In the same moment that we give thanks for what is given to us, and we celebrate with the people we love, we also think about others and we dedicate the same amount of effort to say thank you and to pass on that joy to other families. It’s shockingly simple and has become somewhat ingrained in our kids’ minds — any time they are lucky enough to get something that brings them joy, they try to pass that same joy on to someone else who needs it. If everyone around the world had the same approach, imagine what a wonderful world it could be.

Have a “Yes Day” With Your Kids

Sure, it feels like the holidays are all about over-indulging your kids. And if we’re being honest, every day starts to feel like it’s “their” day. But pick a specific date and make it a special bonding day where anything your kids ask for, they get. BUT there’s a catch… nothing they ask for can be an object or a gift, it can only be experiences you share together. Think stay up late watching holiday movies, wear pajamas all day, build a snowman at midnight, eat ice cream for breakfast, build a pillow fort… get creative and think about silly, memorable adventures and activities that you’ll cherish forever. You’ll be giving them family bonding time, which is far more valuable than a toy you can buy at the store. And yes, we consider this somewhat selfless because letting your kids call the shots is sure to be exhausting and far less thrilling for the parents, but memorable and special nonetheless. 

Adopt a Pet

Animal lovers this one’s for you: adopt, don’t shop. There are thousands of pets in need of loving homes. And if snuggling a new furry best friend doesn’t put a smile on your face and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, then we’re not sure what will. Seriously, pets can boost your mood as well as your mental and emotional well-being, and they just make you happier and healthier overall. Studies show that pets provide people with a feeling of stability, continuity, and meaning in one’s life. If for some reason you aren’t quite ready or able to adopt a pet, there are still several ways to help out and get involved. Volunteer your time at a shelter, help promote pet adoption to others or make a financial contribution to help animals find a loving home

Tell Others You Care and Appreciate Them in Writing

And if all else fails, you always have your words to make other people smile. It’s amazing what a handwritten note can do to make others feel special and loved. Send a holiday card to a friend or relative who lives far away. Write messages to your kids expressing how much they mean to you. Jot down funny memories or special moments that made you laugh this year. Say thank you to a best friend for being there. Make predictions for the future. Yes, we know it’s nearly 2020 and handwritten notes are kind of passé, but trust us, that note will go a really long way for people who might need to hear it more than you realize. And while it might take a few moments of your time and cost you a stamp, it’s a pretty simple and selfless way to spread some love this season.