Redefining What It Means to Give, This Holiday Season and Into the New Year

redefining what it means to give

With the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales come and gone for the year, but the craze of the holiday season still fully intact, I want to focus your attention away from sales, shopping, and sugarplums for a moment. Because this season is also very much about something that’s bigger than buying: it’s about giving.

If your mind just turned to the handful of envelopes dropping into your mailbox and emails landing in your inbox from various nonprofits and organizations soliciting monetary donations this season, bear with me.

Because while opening our wallets can have a stunning impact depending on where the money goes, money isn’t the only thing we can give this holiday season that can make a real difference.

Redefining giving

All too often, our first thoughts immediately go to money. Which, in most cases, rightly limits our belief that we can make a real impact. But it’s time to flip the switch on these limiting beliefs and redefine what it means to give.

Giving is all about identifying and connecting with a need that someone else has. It could be one other person; it could be an entire country. It could be $1; it could be $1,000. But most importantly: it could not be money, at all.

Other ways to give

Giving extends beyond writing that check. Here are a few other ways you can make an impact this holiday season:

Give your time: As busy moms, sisters, daughters, friends, employees, and bosses, we know that time is one of our most valuable assets — which is what makes it so powerful when we give it away. Give your time by volunteering at a local pet shelter, school, food pantry, hospital, or nursing home. Sites like VolunteerMatch help you identify local opportunities you may not have thought of on your own.

Give your skill: Combine the gift of your time with the gift of your expertise, and it’s amazing what you can do. A site like Catchafire helps you find causes you care about and apply your skills to help organizations save money — often showing you what they’ll do with that money, instead.

Give your presence: While this is a bit less tangible than time or skill, it is perhaps even more important. In a world where we are constantly and perhaps a bit obsessively plugged in, being present and focused on the people and things in your immediate surroundings is a true gift. As you attend meetings, parties, and other get togethers over the next few weeks, unplug and practice simply being present.

Give your gratitude: Thanksgiving always inspires us to take a look at what we have, and all that we’re grateful for. And while internal reflection upon that is incredibly important (and can make a huge difference in our attitude from day-to-day), turning that gratitude outward to those around us can greatly impact our relationships, our happiness, and the happiness of others.

Next time you’re feeling incapable of making a difference when money is asked for, consider any of the ways above to give, instead.

“Giving opens the way for receiving.”

As Florence Scovel Shinn so perfectly states with the quote above, the truly phenomenal thing is this: the more you give, the more you’ll see come back to you. Each and every time I’ve felt that I’m not in a place to give — whether it’s money, time, skill, presence, or gratitude — pushing myself to do it anyway has returned more than I could’ve imagined.

(Reading this story of a family that spent six months volunteering around the world only to find that in the most impoverished of villages is where they encountered the greatest amount of generosity is seriously an inspiration.)

Look outward. Identify the causes that light you up and the places that need you, and give of yourself. And if I can challenge you a step further, it would be for this: make this a regular part of your life not just this month, but all year round. Because, as Winston Churchill so famously said: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

What will you give this holiday season (and beyond), friends?