Simplicity & A Giving Heart This Holiday Season

Simplicity & A Giving Heart This Holiday Season

In 1930, Christmas looked very different to my grandmother who was five at the time. For her, being the youngest of 3 girls with a single mother was extra hard during this era; especially during the holidays. She would be greeted with an apple at the toe of her stocking and penny candy on Christmas morning. For her family, and many others, it was not about what was under the Christmas tree, but rather the time that was spent with family.

Like others of her generation, my grandmother gleefully recalls the years  of living with so little — they certainly helped to give her a deeper appreciation for the 10 cent movie and the second hand bike she would be surprised with years later. It was truly a different time. A time when baked homemade cakes and knitted blankets were gifts that families shared and cherished from one another. There wasn't extra to go around and going shopping at stores was reserved for a select few. For my many during this time it often meant Christmas without a tree because so many simply could not afford one. It sometimes led to a bit of creativity to come up with an alternate solution to use in place of the traditional tree.

As years passed my grandmother promised herself that, if she ever could, she would make Christmas extra special for her own family one day.  Before too long Decembers were meticulously decorated so that the spirit of the season was palpable in every corner.

Glenn Miller, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby would echo throughout the house. Christmastime filled the air. Of course picking out a tree and a visit to greet that jolly ole' elf was a tradition in the making over the years. My own mother recalls the adorned stocking filled with novelties and one unwrapped gift under the tree from old St.

Nick.

Like others, I have always enjoyed the stories of our families' Christmas past and I've always wanted to bring home the spirit of the season I've seen through my grandparents' eyes. They were models of the Christmas Spirit, ever so giving — especially through the holidays. Baskets of gorgeous fruits, nuts and a stunning ham wrapped up to give to employees. Feelings of love that wrap you up and help you to feel safe and cared for. That is the Christmas spirit that so many long for, that nostalgia from yesteryear. It's why when we go on to have our own children that we often find ourselves reaching out to make the holidays merry beyond our own walls. There is something about the giving that brings joy in a way that consuming simply cannot.

This Year Give for Goodness Sake

Donate toys, clothing, or holiday inspired meals. Lovingly make cupcakes and deliver handmade treats to homeless shelters or domestic violence safe havens. Box up gifts and necessities and ship them overseas for our service men and women. Give the gift of time - visit retirement homes, pass out ornaments to veterans, or sing with bell ringers.

There are so many programs, local charities and 501c3 organizations that will welcome your generosity with open arms.

While we do our own shopping we can make life a little bit easier for the ones who struggle. One really amazing concept is "Compassionate gift ideas"  offered by Family-to-Family.org. These gifts help you reach out to families in need and bring compassion and love to your gift giving holidays (and beyond!). Below are just a few of their amazing programs. You can find more on their website.

Hunger Hurts

  • 1-year family sponsorship providing 7 meals per month for 12 months for a family of 4-6. This gift costs $360

Victory Garden Kit

  • Provides chickens, planting beds, seeds and other garden essentials to a family as a way to grow fresh, healthy produce and eggs. This gift costs $100

 A Birthday Party in a Box

  • Provides essentials for a child’s birthday party to impoverished families who otherwise can’t afford them. This gift costs $25

    Wherever the Need is Greatest

    • Funds everything from emergency food relief to supporting Family-to-Family’s infrastructure in their effort to expand their work to all 50 states. This gift is available in any amount that you choose and are able.

    Gifts That Give Back

    In addition to direct giving, you can also support others who are doing good works. One way is to be mindful of your purchases and choose gits that give back when possible. Choose items that have a charity component or give the gift of experiences that will help to foster a sense of community, culture, and good will.

    Some gift ideas could include memberships to museums, zoos, science centers, camps, and even privates lessons. They can either be for yourself, someone you know, or you can make a donation that enables some of these places to offer open door scholarships to those who cannot afford these programs.

    Throw Back for a More Memorable Holiday

    This year, if you are able, spend time with those you love — or those who need love. If you are able and DIY inclined, it's truly a gift to spend time on items made from the heart. Homemade ornaments, fresh cookies, a carefully curated cookbook full of your favorites, scarves, and bath scrubs are all easy for a novice. If you feel more ambitious you could spring for custom throw pillows, a handmade top, or even a quilt.

    You can find some amazing DIY gift and give back gift ideas for every level of expertise on the Pinterest boards below:

    Perhaps the most amazing thing you'll find is the joy that comes with giving so fully to others. Soak it all in and take time to reflect on the year behind you and the opportunities afforded you and the hurdles you overcame. Not all gifts are tangible, and perhaps maybe the best ones aren't. May you and yours have a beautiful holiday season encircled with the gifts of love, friendship, health, and the joy that accompanies them.