Or, you may already have your own giving traditions--perhaps things passed down from your relatives, outreaches that your church sponsors, or other causes that are close to your heart. In that case, I would love to hear what you have done and how it has impacted you--I'm always looking for new ideas!
1) greet the troops at DFW airport--wish them a Merry Christmas and let them know you appreciate the gift of their service! Flights arrive daily: call 972-574-0392 for information about the following day's arrival times.
2)Bake Christmas cookies and deliver them to a neighbor or someone who needs to have their day brightened. (slice and bake is OK!)
3) Help your child select a new toy during the Christmas season and donate it to Toys for Tots. See http://www.toysfortots.com/ for drop-off locations.
4) During these down times, many families are struggling just to put food on the table. Buy some extra food staples and put them in a collection box at your grocery store, office, or church.
5) Have people on your list who are hard to buy for or who already seem to have everything? You can honor them by giving a gift in their name through World Vision. There are many so many things to choose from--sheep, pigs, cows, fishing kits, warm clothing, school supplies, and immunizations for people in the developing world, to name a few. You can view their Christmas catalog online at http://www.worldvision.org/; you can also request a hard copy.
6) Pick up a poinsettia at the store (optional) and visit a nursing home or retirement center. Ask the director to recommend a patient who rarely gets visitors and would enjoy a few minutes of company. This is a great spur-of-the-moment activity--it does not involve preplanning or require you to show up at any particular time.
7) It is too late to participate in this for Christmas 2010, but you might keep it in mind for next year. Fill a shoe-box with Christmas gifts to send to a child in an impoverished part of the world through http://www.samaritianspurse.org/. Shopping for and packing these gifts is one of my girls' favorite Christmas activities.
8) Take some inexpensive Christmas cards and write a personal note thanking a family for their wonderful Christmas light display. Keep them in the car with you (along with a roll of tape), and when you or your children are awed by some holiday decorations, leave a note on their door thanking them for their efforts.
9) Get a roll of quarters from the bank and keep it in your car. Anytime you or your children are about to enter a store with a Salvation Army kettle, you will have change handy to donate.
10) This year,you can adopt a child in need from the Salvation Army Angel Tree online! Simply select a recipient, buy the gifts, and then drop them off at the location you designate. It's that easy! http://www.dfwangeltree.org/
11) Donate used toys to Christian Community Action or a women's shelter--this is a great project to do before Christmas when lots of new toys will be received.
12) Write a note to someone who has lost a loved one this year--acknowledge that you know that it will be a difficult holiday season without their (brother, son, wife, mom, etc.) and let them know you are praying for them.
If you want a way to help your children really grasp the concept of giving their time/money/gifts/resources, here is an idea that a stole, er, I mean, I borrowed :) Take a shoe box and wrap the box and lid separately in wrapping paper. cut a slit in the top of the box. Make a little sign that says "gifts for Jesus" or write it directly on the box.
During the Christmas season, any time a member of your family does something nice for someone else, write it on a slip of paper and place it in the box. Then, some time on Christmas day, open the box and read all the slips of paper, reminding them that these are our gifts to Jesus for his birthday.
I'll close this post by quoting Buddha, which is something I am not typically in the habit of doing. However, he really sums up what I think all of us feel when we invest our time, money and resources in the lives of others:
"Before giving, the mind of the giver is happy, while giving, the mind of the giver is peaceful; and having given, the mind of the giver is uplifted."