Thanksgiving and Christmas are often considered to be the best times of year. These holidays often come with the expectation of time off from work, quality time with family and friends, vacations, damn good eating and eminent match-ups in football and basketball (or perhaps these are just my expectations). But this time of year is also about compassionate giving of time and resources to those less privileged. There are tons of charities in which you can donate (i.e., Salvation Army, Red Cross, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, etc.). And these well-established charitable organizations have ensured the viability of a range of individuals and families. But as you look around your city and your neighborhoods, there are still some people that may not be connected to a helping professional, supportive family, or charity. Here’s a short list of people (not charities) you can also contribute to.
- The elderly – Often times there’s an elderly person or couple that may not be as connected to the community or neighborhood. You know this because you rarely see them outside and you only know their name because you occasionally receive their mail. Take a moment and let them know you care by actually sending them a heartfelt message in a card or offering a service you provide (i.e., cooked meal, raking their yard, decorating the home, etc.). And thank them for their decades of contribution to society. At one time, they were contributing to society as much as or more than you.
- First responders – First responders (i.e., police, firefighters, EMS) are a group that gets very little recognition until you need them. And you don’t really need them unless something bad has happened. That means a thank you is often lost in the adrenaline of helping you or the aftermath of other paperwork they have to complete. Offering a nice “just because” small token of appreciation for their commitment to your community is like holiday food for their soul.
- Military service members – We always talk about how much we appreciate their service to our country. Of course they receive 10% off discounts in many places they shop, but how do YOU show your appreciation for their service? I’m not talking about standing for the national anthem either. Many service members are often geographically displaced (i.e., deployed to some foreign sea or land), and some are still working as first responders on a military installation. Take a moment to share your appreciation with a service member and/or their loved ones for their continued service during the holidays.
- The homeless – Ok…here me out on this one. The homeless were not always homeless people. In fact, they are people first that just happen to be homeless for whatever reason (i.e. ostracized for sexual orientation, mental health issues, finances, unemployment, etc.). And, sure, they may be on drugs or abuse alcohol, but let s/he who has not had a drink or smoke or whatever during a tough time cast the first stone. Ok then! Let me also point out that being homeless is still considered to be a tough time, and it’s cold outside. Let’s remember they are people first. And a bottle of water, cup of coffee or hot chocolate, a small bite to eat, or whatever small gift you can give with an encouraging word or prayer is a life-giving moment for them.
- The victimized – Victimized people come in all ages, races, disabilities, economic statuses, and gender. Sex trafficking (which primarily affects women and children) should be considered a national and international crisis. Children with disabilities are also more often to be victims of abuse and neglect by both adults and peers. Domestic violence, sexual assault, gang violence, police brutality (I know I was just saying be nice to police above, but c’mon not all police are abusive), are just a short list of instances where people are victimized. While you may not know who these people are, you do know local agencies that can help. Support those nonprofits. And if you see something, say something and do something.
This list could go on to include other groups. Please feel free to add to this list with groups you have assisted or would like to bring to people’s attention during this season. Although the focus is on the holiday season, hopefully you will decide to make this a lifetime commitment.