I am as guilty of it as anyone: making the “I just don’t have any time” excuse. We all do it. Whether we’re open-heart surgeons or stay-at-home moms, one thing anyone from any walk of life could tell you is that they don’t have enough time. In a world where we don’t have enough time for fun, we have even less time for doing things for other people. Or so we think.
With the festive holiday season upon us, the perfect time to start giving back has arrived. Here are a few simple ideas for even the busiest of humans:
- Sponsor a child in your area. Foster and adoption homes in cities big and small share one common struggle during the holiday season—rooms full of kids who won’t have family or gifts this year. Many of these homes offer an opportunity to sponsor a child for the season (choosing one child to buy a few gifts for) or “angel trees” (you choose one gift from a list of the home’s needs and vow to purchase it). By sponsoring a child for the holidays, you can ensure they’ll wake up to something joyous on Christmas morning, and it will be thanks to you.
- “Adopt” a family. Similar to sponsoring a child in an adoption or foster center, homeless centers and charitable churches in many areas help families celebrate the holidays. By “adopting” a family, you can choose to provide them with everything on their list of needs or just a few items. Either way, a family that had a difficult year will be given one day of hope and happiness when they receive their gifts.
- Sponsor a homeless pet. Pets are people too! Many animals, even those in adoption shelters, will go hungry and cold this time of year when their species is forgotten about. Don’t let animals be left out of the holidays. Sponsor a homeless pet at a humane society near you if they offer this option, or simple purchase a few warm blankets and healthy treats at your local Walgreens to donate to the shelter. Your generosity will be appreciated by the humans and the animals alike there.
- Buy a homeless person a meal. Many homeless shelters provide meals to their members on Christmas. These meals are typically organized solely from donations of food, time and money. Research shelters near you to find what you can do to ensure another person will have the chance to have a warm meal on Christmas somewhere safe. Perhaps a shelter will be collecting canned goods, volunteers for the evening or simply money to purchase items with. Regardless of what you find to give, it’s guaranteed that someone will eat a warm meal safely on Christmas because of you.
- Help out a friend. With the focus on the greater good during the holidays and the stress of busy schedules, it’s easy to overlook those closest to us who need help the most. Perhaps a friend has recently lost a job, or can’t afford to travel to see their family this year, or has to work on Christmas. Put together a gift basket, invite them to dinner or get them a gift card to somewhere they’ll actually use it (grocery store, home goods store, health store, etc.). Helping someone you love, and seeing him or her benefit because of it, will feel amazing for both of you.
If your city is fortunate enough to have no families, foster children or pets to sponsor this year, there are always shelters for humans and animals alike that can use random donated goods. For instance, my small business is donating a pair of gloves to a homeless shelter or a warm blanket to an animal society for each order we receive. Many homes can use canned goods (which we all have a surplus of in the pantry), warm clothing, shoes, blankets or even paper goods such as toilet paper. Every little bit counts.
There are hundreds of ways to give back to your community this year. These five are some of the simplest, least time-consuming options that will work for even those in a hurry. Instead of wasting another five minutes on Instagram or Pinterest, take that time to research what you can do in your area. In just five minutes (that’s really all it takes!), you can save someone’s Christmas this year. I hope you will.