They say that giving to others makes us happier than when we receive things ourselves. One of my favorite things about Christmas is giving thoughtful gifts to the people I love and seeing their happiness and delight. But even money can't buy the gifts of Love and Joy, or the small daily kindnesses that cultivate those two treasures.
Even if you have no money to spend on material things, you can give time, love and energy to your family, friends, and community in ways that will not only bring you joy and happiness, but will also make this crazy world of ours a better place.
The gift can be any size you choose. Here are a few ideas:
1. Smile and be kind. This sounds obvious and not like much of an idea at all, but I am always surprised at the unhappy, impatient, and suffering looks I see on random peoples' faces this time of year. People get stressed out and try to do too much, or meet too high of expectations, and that makes them rude and nasty. Little kindnesses, patience, and smiles really do make a difference!
2. Help a friend or neighbor. Everyone struggles in some way during their lifetime, and creating a community that shares and helps each other is a blessing that not only creates peace and happiness on a local level, but by virtue of our global human interaction also touches our whole world.
In my experience, people are usually more comfortable accepting help if you have already formed a friendship with them. You might have to wait for a good opportunity to make an offer of help.
If you are local to the Gainesville area, the Garden Sweat Equity Work Parties (SEWP) is a great way to lend a hand in the community, and also puts your work hours towards hosting your own group work party. A great opportunity to learn from others, meet interesting people, and have help with projects that require more than one set of hands.
To offer some ideas, these are a few opportunities that have presented themselves to us:
- For a long time we had an elderly woman with health problems living next door to us, and we made sure she knew that we were there to help her if she needed us. We took out her recycling, unloaded her groceries, and checked on her often. She even called us right a few days before she passed away at a care center, just to say hello and to talk. We are so glad for the chance to know her and to make her last few years happy with cards and gifts from the children, and just knowing she had someone living next door that cared about her.
- After a friend had her second baby, I offered to have her oldest child over a lot to play. Her son loved coming to play with friends, and it gave her some much-needed time to rest with her new baby and catch up on things.
- Last week Ethan offered a ride to a neighbor who lives alone and had to have someone drive him to the hospital for a procedure. He also picked him up after it was finished, and we checked on him for a few days to make sure that he was comfortable and doing ok.
3. Volunteering in the community. If you look around, there are usually many charitable organizations that do wonderful things in communities that rely on volunteers as their lifeblood. Shelters, groups that feed the hungry, or cheer up elderly people who live in care facilities and might not have family to come and visit them all need volunteers. Here are just a couple ideas for volunteer work in the Gainesville area to get you started:
GRACE Marketplace serves the community in many ways by offering food, shelter, counselling and clothing to the needy. They need volunteers for diverse jobs that range from serving food to the hungry, to giving hair cuts.
Forage Farm does wonderful work to build a local food system through a heritage seed collection, farm to restaurant programs, and youth programs that offer after school gardening. Every second Sunday they have volunteer opportunities for work either on the farm in the community.
The Alachua County Library not only offers education, learning, and entertainment resources to the public, they also host many excellent programs, from children's programs to English lessons, and it's all for free.
Whether your gift to the community is large or small, in some way it will touch a heart and shine.