To all the Scrooges who say giving isn’t fun — think again!

Africa Donation

The holiday season, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, is by far most people’s favorite time of year, and it’s not because we love getting presents (because we do), rather it’s because we love the joy of giving.

Nothing feels our heart and the hearts of the receiver more with thanksgiving and gratitude than giving back and helping someone in need.

Here are seven of the best ways to give. Hopefully they sound worthwhile enough that you’ll try them:

1. Pay for Someone’s Meal

In December 2012, at a donut shop in Manitoba, one customer paid the coffee bill of the person behind him in the drive-thru. That small act of kindness set off a chain reaction that lasted three hours, with 228 customers “paying it forward.” Participating in an extraordinary campaign that size isn’t going to happen every day, but you don’t have to be part of something like that to make a difference for one person or family.

2. Fill the Cart

This idea is definitely a favorite. Basically, you just head over to the nearest grocery store and fill up an entire shopping cart with canned food. It’s ridiculously fun to pull entire cases of soup off the shelf and dump them into your cart, especially with the looks you get from other people. When you get to the cashier, you might get a look that could melt ice, but as soon as you tell them you’re donating the contents of the cart to the food bank, you get to spend the next 10 minutes chatting with them as they check you out, feeling grateful you came to their line so they could be a part of the experience. The cost may end up being around $300, but if you think about the people your groceries are going to, the money suddenly seems like nothing.

3. Deliver Sub for Santa

Visit your local United Way to see what you could do to help with their Sub for Santa program. Even if you don’t have any money to donate gifts, they usually need help with other things, like delivering gifts. When we’ve done this ourselves, we ended up grabbing a bunch of bags filled with toys and driving them around the city. You’ll get a good chance to see, firsthand, the people who struggle during the holidays, and it was amazing to see how grateful they were. We didn’t organize any of it. We’d only delivered things to these families, but the people didn’t care. To them, we represented it all, and they were very grateful, as were we.

4. Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen

Volunteering at the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter is something that’s always needed – not just in November or December either. They have needs all year round. Whether it’s a one-time deal or volunteering for several hours every week preparing, cooking and serving food, the need is always there. You may get to meet a lot of really amazing people and to hear a lot of wonderful stories from those whom you’re serving. Feeding the hungry and destitute is always time well spent.

5. Do Your Own Food Drive

Create a friendly competition among neighbors, friends or co-workers to see who can bring in the most food. Before you get started, of course, be sure to coordinate the effort with the local food bank, finding out what needs they have so that you can channel each team’s efforts toward bringing in the items that will do the most good.  Consider driving around to other businesses or neighborhoods to drop off donation bags with instructions stapled to them explaining what we you’re doing and when you’ll be back to pick up the food. People all around you are looking for ways to give back, and many of them, for one reason or another, just get sidetracked and don’t end up giving at all. This friendly competition, and your friendly follow up and follow through, will help a lot of people to give when they otherwise wouldn’t have done so.

6. Bake Some Tasty Christmas Goodies

This is a great family Christmas activity. Set aside a day of the week before Christmas for browsing recipes, shopping for ingredients and baking. When you have a time-allotted game plan, you’ll be able to enjoy the experience instead of stressing about whatever else you have to do.  As soon as you’re done baking, divvy everything up onto plates and take them around to your list of people. Oh, and set a budget, so you’re not overspending and you’re making enough to give to as many people as you planned for.

7. Step Up and Ask

If you aren’t sure what to do to give back or where your time or resources could be best used, the first place to start is to ask. Contact a representative at a local organization and let them know about your desire to help. Be specific about what you might be able to do – whether it’s donating your time, offering in-kind donations, or providing funding.

When it comes to giving, putting money in an envelope is easy, but the best experiences come when you invest your time and talents to help others in need.

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