Good for Goodness’ Sake – “Give Back” this Holiday

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Do you remember the inspiration behind Oprah’s “Christmas Kindness South Africa” in 2002?

She tells the story of when she was 12 years old, and her mother told them they didn’t have enough money for Christmas.  In Oprah’s words, “Just when I started to accept there would not be a Christmas, three nuns showed up at our house with gifts for all of us. There was a turkey, a fruit basket, some games, and for me they brought a doll.”

“I remember feeling that I mattered to those nuns, whom I had never met.  And what it meant that they had remembered me.”

“I wasn’t forgotten.  Somebody had thought enough of me to bring me a gift.”

g1 u7458 OprahSouthAfrica 201x300 Good for Goodness Sake   Give Back this HolidayThe story is beautiful in itself.  But the fact that so many years later, she was inspired to pass that joy along to 50,000 school children and orphans in South Africa… you just never know the effects your small act of giving can have!

It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of the holidays.  We’re busy with gifts to buy, trips to plan, and parties to attend.  When the overwhelm, consumerism, and violence of Black Friday set in… the best remedy is a peaceful, meaningful holiday.

So what do you hear when you stop and ask yourself what an authentic — a REAL Christmas would mean to you?

In today’s edition of our 10 Weeks to a Green Christmas series, we’re talking about Giving Back.

Why Give Back?

  • It’s Needed – Even in the U.S., you don’t have to look far these days to see someone who could use a hand up (as in hand to help up, not a hand-out). But worldwide, well over half of the population is without electricity or running water. Sort of makes the fight over a $2 waffle machine seem even sillier…
  • It’s Good Karma – When you give with an open heart, you’ll always end up with more to give. Giving creates the flow of good things coming right back to you. And it just feels good.
  • It Sets a Good Example – If you’re a parent, one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do with your child is let them choose a cause to donate time or money to. Kids are naturally caring and generous, but you have to encourage it to keep them that way.

How To Give Back

Growing up, our parents made Christmas giving a priority – choosing a family in need to buy gifts for or volunteering to help deliver holiday meals.  And our grandma gave all year round – donating dolls to charity, quilts to church raffles… everything from attending fund raising events to sending us down the street on Sunday with a plate of food for an elderly friend. I have a feeling we’ll never even know the extent of her giving, but she always said, “You can’t out give God.”

The Gift of Your Time

Giving doesn’t always mean money. There are plenty of ways to make a difference by volunteering your time. Getting involved will reward you in ways that writing a check and dropping it in the mailbox just can’t do.

  • Plan a good deed of the day or week
  • Volunteer at your local animal shelter
  • Sing Christmas carols or visit lonely patients at a hospital or nursing home
  • Shovel someone’s sidewalk
  • Let your children choose how they’d like to donate their time

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Give Anonymously

This week I saw a Facebook status that said, “My worries on the way to work just melted. A lady in front of me just paid for my Starbucks peppermint mocha!”

Set aside some money to bless others in need, and when the time comes, do it as anonymously as possible.  This might be something like leaving double the tip for an excellent server… or buying Christmas dinner groceries for a family in need.  Our boys love taking dollars and change to put in the donation boxes outside the cat and dog rooms at our local Humane Society.

Gifts That Give Back

If you love shopping, you’re in luck.  There are more than enough ways to give gifts that really matter.

You can give presents

Malls, churches, and many office buildings have Angel Trees or organizations like the Operation Christmas Child or the Salvation Army that collect gifts for kids, elderly, or families who need help during the holidays.

You can choose your recipient by name, gender, or age and let your children help pick out the gifts for your special Christmas “angel.”  Other organizations offer ways to donate gently used toys and books. If you go this route, make sure the items are clean and in good condition. Make sure these kids get the message: You Matter.

Or you can give in lieu of presents

Most likely, your gift list includes more than one “person who has everything.”  Rather than another gift certificate, find out what cause they truly care about and donate to it in their name.

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Companies like TisBest are making it easier to give charitable gifts.  You make the donation, and your recipient chooses which charity receives the money. Other popular and easy to give charity gifts are…

Heifer International provides livestock and training to families around the world.

Nest works to change the lives of women in developing countries by providing small business loans and education for a lifetime of self-sufficiency.

For the animal lover on your list, consider supporting your local shelter or The World Wildlife Fund Species Adoptions.

The Nature Conservancy has several environmental charity programs.  One of our current favorites is Plant a Billion Trees.


There are so many ways you and your family can get involved at home or globally.  What are your plans to Give Back this holiday?

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  • Lori Popkewitz Alper

    Thanks for sharing this important post Amity. There are so many ways to give back-hopefully we can all find a way to give in some way.

  • Victoria Gazeley

    Great reminder, Amity.  I used to do donations every year (and do throughout the year), but the last couple of year’s I’ve gotten away from Christmas donations as gifts for some reason.  This is the year to bring it back!

  • Sue

    Great article, Amity.  I think our family is going to donate to Heifer International this year.  Love the way you think…your heart is so genuine…

  • Anonymous

    A bountiful list of ways we can “give” from the heart, Amity!  You’ve now removed everyone’s excuse, as there’s something for every personal situation.  And you’ve inspired me with a couple of new ones, thanks!

  • Jennifer Bennett

    Love this Amity.  I was reminded this past weekend of how touching it can be when people give of their time and service. Our amazing friends gave in a way that I will be forever grateful for and that no present or gift would ever compare.  Thanks for sharing! 

  • Hughie Bagnell

    Thank you Amity…your first picture is awesome! An excellent list of how we can “give back” ! …Thanks, Hughie

  • Patcruickshank

    You have so many great ideas here. The giving anonymously is just so much fun. Your grandma was so right – we cannot out give God, and He provides for us so we can pass the blessing along.

  • Crystal

    I LOVE this post!  what a wonderful story to start your post off with too!  Brought tears to my eyes and spurred me into action….not necessarily to become a nun …but think like one in the Holiday season especially.  I had two nuns in my family and they really left an impression on me that will last a lifetime even though they have passed on …bless their souls they were very special people!

  • Scarlett Von Gunten

    Love this Amity!! I’m trying to find local things my children and I can be involved in together. Like Loaves&Fishes/Meals on Wheels or a local children’s cancer center. LOVE Angel Tree & Nest too!! Merry Christmas Amity!! :)

  • Solvita

    This is such a beautiful article Amity! Giving makes our characters supreme, only through giving we receive… actually multiple times more or better…This is what people sometimes forget. :) Loved it, you provide us with so many options in here! Thank you!

  • Pat Moon

    Amity, thanks for a great article on the art of giving.  We have had to cut back because of finances the past several years but, yes, there are things we can do to give without money.  Have a blessed Christmas.

  • Lori

    Thanks for the reminder! The gift of time is an important one and doesn’t cost a thing! Thanks Amity!

  • Jandi Theis

    What a great article! You have a great list of ways to give to others — now or any time of year! Thanks for sharing all these ideas! You’re so right when you say we never know how many people we can touch with just one small act of kindness. 

  • Patricia

    A deep sigh came from me while reading your beautiful words.  This is what the holiday season is about, this is what every day is about ~ opening our heart and giving, even if it is a big smile or holding the door for someone … the simplicity of giving has the most perfect ripple effect.  Thank you for passing it on.

  • Amity Hook-Sopko

    Great charities!  Thanks for mentioning them here :)

  • Lori Thayer

    Great article Amity. I enjoy contributing toys, books and other things for kids to several charities during the Holiday season.

  • Tiffany

    We give away a lot of things, but never time. We recently helped take care of trees in a local park, but I would loe to do more! Thanks for the reminder

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