It’s said that Christmas is a time of giving. This is true: the holiday season falls at year’s end, when we are awash with the promise of a new year and the endeavours of an old one behind us. We want to give; we want to end the year on a high note. And giving is one of the most rewarding and encouraging things we can do. Life was not meant to be lived in solitude—it’s best when it’s shared.
At Christmas time, this giving traditionally takes the form of gifts, tokens of our affection and gratitude and love. This exchange is also almost exclusive to intimate relationships. It’s rare that we will give gifts to those with whom we don’t have a connection. But, as observed by the likes of The Grinch, the season has a tendency to lend itself to avarice and unfettered consumerism.
Rather than lean into these, we should focus on the fact that Christmas offers an opportunity to contribute beyond your circle of loved ones, in ways that are potentially more valuable and impactful. When we think of how we can help folks who need it most, we tend to think of bringing someone food or dropping a bit of change in their cup. While these are good gestures, there are many other ways to give this Christmas. Consider the following this holiday season.
Give The Necessities
When we think of frontline giving, we think of money or food, but there are other, harder-to-come-by necessities that these offerings can be coupled with. Consider purchasing or donating clothing items, like wool socks, long underwear, or winter outerwear: boots, coats, toques, mittens, etc. Approach these interactions with sensitivity and warmth and patience—give your time, too. Get to know the people in your community and your city who might need help. Perhaps you can help arrange lodging, or employment. There are many ways to give.
Giving your time extends to volunteering. There are plenty of ways to do this, each with a different focus, and depending on your community, needs will be different. Get in touch with your surroundings to see where your efforts would be best directed: at the soup kitchen, at the shelter, at the overdose prevention clinic, at the safe injection site. There are folks at each who will be happy to receive your time and your companionship this Christmas.
If your holidays are too crammed to spend much time away from family, donating to charitable organizations is a simple and effective way to give to those in need. Once again, the needs of your community will vary from place to place, so do some reading beforehand to see where money is needed most. Some programs receive plenty of funding and community support, while others struggle, week over week, to stay afloat. Focus your donating on these places.
Lobby and Organize
Giving need not be limited to a three-week period in December of each year. You can give year-round with your voice, which you can lend to causes that too often are voiceless. Strike up dialogues with your municipal, provincial, and federal representatives, and remind them of the importance of considering, caring for, and giving to people who are experiencing homelessness, addiction, and other issues. Vocally support policies and funding that would further these causes. This work is crucial, and—coupled with other tactics—suggests a generosity of spirit befitting of the Christmas season.