Ah, the Twelve Days of Christmas
It’s that song that gets stuck in your head, if nothing else out of sheer repetition throughout the month of December. As far as we know, the first version kicked off in a children’s book in 1780, and something roughly resembling our current version was written by a fellow named Frederic Austin in 1909. From there, it was on to the endless playful, and sometimes intentionally mocking, variations we’ve all heard played over and over (thank you in particular Jeff Foxworthy).
And of course, there are the “Twelve Days of Giving” marketing campaigns to encourage donors to support a particular cause. As a non-profit, we have no problem with that concept, and if you want to make a gift to Home of Hope on each of the twelve days of Christmas (if you’re not sure when to make those payments, the twelve days start on Christmas day and continue into January), we’re willing to accept them. What we would rather do this year, though, is scoot onto the couch beside you (move over just a bit – thanks) and think together about twelve ways we can all make a difference for other people at this time of year. Some involve financial gifts, some gifts of our stuff, and some more simply gifts of our time and our attention.
So here goes. Maybe not THE twelve ways of giving, but there are twelve. See if you find an opportunity somewhere in here to make a difference for some organization you care about or some person in your life who you know could use a spark of encouragement this time of year.
1. Make a financial gift today
Whether it’s straight cash, an IRA rollover, or a gift of stock, this is the time when an incredible part of the year’s giving is done. There are tax benefits for many people, but frankly it’s also just the time when our hearts are more turned to giving. If you haven’t opened up your wallet, bank account, retirement account, or stock portfolio yet, now’s the time to let loose. And trust me, that nonprofit out there that you’ve always thought does wonderful things DOES need your help, no matter how big or small. Your generosity is a very big deal to them.
2. Make a planned gift for tomorrow
This one isn’t for everyone, but for those who’ve been putting off how you want to use what you’ve worked all these years to accumulate to make a difference for someone else, go ahead and make now the time. Whether it’s your church, your favorite cause, or your children and grandchildren, take the time to get things in order so they’ll benefit in the way you want them to whenever the time comes. You’re fine. You’re going to be around for a long time. But knowing you’ve taken care of things for them feels really good.
3. Become predictable.
Look, we can’t all leave a million dollars to our favorite charity or our favorite grandchild (please don’t pick a favorite grandchild by the way – you know it’s wrong). But your $50, $25, or even $5 a month in predictable support is more important to an organization that’s doing good work than you may think. Plus, it keeps you in touch and makes you a part of their work throughout the year. Home of Hope has a monthly giving program (insert shameless plug here: if you donate via our website, just click “make this a monthly donation”). Your favorite charity probably has one as well. It’s easy to set up. Go for it.
4. Let go of some stuff
Those boxes in the garage that you haven’t opened since your last move seventeen years ago, those shoes in the back of your closet that you never wear, or those DVD’s on the shelf that you are keeping just because you like the movies but you never actually watch them – donate them to a thrift store that supports a cause you care about. You get the space in your home back, and you get to help someone else – FOR FREE.
5. Go shopping
Okay, don’t just go shopping – go shopping at that same thrift store that supports the cause you love. The money you spend will make a difference for someone else. Even better, buy someone else a gift while you’re there. It’s double giving. And no, it’s not tacky to buy people gifts at thrift stores. If some of your friends are shallow and wouldn’t want a thoughtful gift you picked up at a thrift store, just buy gifts for your deeper friends. You can worry about the others later.
6. Do something
In the midst of a global pandemic, finding a place to volunteer is harder than it used to be. Not everyone is able to accept outside volunteers right now. But there’s someone who could use your help out there. It could be an organization, or it could just be a person who could use some help. Either way, it’s a great time of year to just give of yourself to help someone out.
7. Share someone else’s story
We post, snap, and tweet. Sometimes, we actually write letters, talk on the phone, or even talk to people face-to-face. Take a few minutes to tell the world, or at least the part of it you’re connected to, about a place, person, or group you believe in. Your personal story or comment can make a huge difference.
8. Be there
It’s a great time of year to stop and just spend time with someone. Okay, let’s face it, it’s always a good time of year for that, but why not let whatever else is keeping you busy go for a few minutes and just be there with someone? Take someone for a cup of coffee, go for a walk, sit down on the floor to play with a child. It doesn’t really matter what you do. Just give someone the gift of your time.
9. Tell them
Okay, there’s someone in your life who really deserves to hear how much they mean to you. Be specific. Here – I’ll get you started. “Hey. I just wanted to tell you how much it means to me that you..” It’s not as hard as you think. Make eye contact. 30 seconds of real appreciation can make someone’s year.
10. Listen up!
As much as it means to tell someone what they mean to you, showing it by simply taking some time to listen can mean just as much. Show an interest in what someone else is interested in. Ask questions. Stop whatever else you’re doing. Show them how important they are to you by truly taking the time to listen.
11. Cook something up
Bake some cookies, brownies, or whatever you know how to make. Share it with a neighbor, a friend, or a member of your family. If you’re, um, less than spectacular at cooking, you can cheat and buy something to share. It doesn’t really matter – it’s nice to be thought of, and it’s even nicer when you’re daintily scarfing down that thoughtful gift.
12. Throw down the gauntlet
Whether it’s who can give more to a charity, volunteer more hours, or give cookies out to more people, issue a challenge and get the people around you involved. We’re often private about our giving and our acts of kindness, and that’s how it should be, but sometimes a challenge can do wonders for getting other people into the spirit.
Whatever way you choose, pick your spot this Christmas Season and make a difference for someone out there. Now get up off the couch, hand me the remote, and get busy.
And from all of us at Home of Hope,
Just click donate button in the bottom left corner to see all the ways you can give now!