The season of ugly sweaters, cookie exchange parties, plates overflowing with tamales, frantic shopping and lengthy trips to the post office is upon us. The holidays are a wonderful time to spread good cheer, but sometimes we get lost in the shuffle of presents and demanding schedules, resulting in a deficit of unprovoked acts of kindness. Isn't kindness what this whole thing is about?
Let's fix that! Here's an opportunity to really invest in the season of goodwill toward one another, while teaching our children the true meaning of holiday spirit. Some of these require nothing more than a pen and paper, and a desire to make others smile; others are inexpensive but manageable ways to commit a random act of kindness.
On a budget for the holidays and can't afford to buy presents for all those you love? Give the gift of kindness, which can be more appreciated than material items in most cases. You can always add to this list and make this time of the year truly a season of giving.
1. Purchase $1 scratch-off tickets and paperclip a holiday inspired message to each, wishing joyous returns, and then leave them as surprises for friends, family and neighbors.
2. Volunteer at the local Humane Society and give our furry friends a sense of hope and comfort.
3. Organize a Christmas caroling group and sing villancicos to fellow neighbors, or travel to senior living facilities, hospitals, and even homeless shelters.
4. Bake or buy an assortment of holiday cookies, stuff them in festive wrap, and leave them on neighbors' door knobs as a surprise treat. Kids love this activity!
5. Add color and glitter to simple, inexpensive ornaments and give them away to friends and family.
6. Send holiday cards to the troops. The Red Cross has a fantastic program, Holiday Mail for Heroes, which matches cards to troops who are deployed during the holidays.
7. Visit a local senior living facility or nursing home and inquire about reading holiday stories to the residents. Be sure to ask whether there might be Spanish-speaking residents you can read to as well.
8. Use pretty holiday-colored paper to write inspirational holiday messages — you can add a small candy to sweeten the note — and leave them randomly in people's shopping carts, on doorsteps, or windshields.
9. Next time you buy coffee, pay for the next 5 or 10 cups, and ask the barista to write "I hope this simple act of kindness will fill your heart with good cheer," on the cups.
10. Make or purchase a beautiful holiday-inspired card and leave it for your mail carrier, thanking them for their hard work.
11. Gather your kids and friends for a massive holiday baking party, then wrap the goods in colorful disposable platters and deliver them to your local firehouse or police station to thank them for their service.
12. Pre-measure ingredients for cookies, individually wrap or put them in a Mason jar, and place them in a pretty basket. Leave with friends who could use a holiday pick-me-up and might enjoy baking a new cookie recipe.
13. If you have a neighbor, coworker or friend who's recently experienced an illness in the family, lost a job or is otherwise struggling, it can be an amazing gesture of kindness to drop by with a prepared meal for their family.
14. Invite people who may be far from home and relatives to your holiday dinner table.
15. Create mini holiday packs for the homeless with treats and hygiene items and pass them out.
16. Get your family together and pick a charity to which you would like to support using some of your Christmas gift money to benefit others. Global Giving and Kiva are great websites to find places to donate.
17. Donate clothing and household items that are still in good condition to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill stores.
18. Search online for local area programs that allow your family to brighten the holiday season for a family in need by purchasing gifts and donating meal items. Services vary by city and state.
19. Leave holiday-inspired jokes on people's windshield, desk, grocery cart or anywhere else you can tape a joke.
20. Help a neighbor with yard work or holiday decorating.
21. Make the effort to smile at everyone and offer season's greetings.
22. Collect new toys from friends and family to donate to programs like Marine Toys for Tots who distribute them to families in need.
23. Buy gift cards to the movies through Fandango or directly at the theater and surprise someone with them.
24. Offer to watch a friend's children so they can have a well-deserved break, or go shopping for their kids' holiday gifts.
25. Leave a kind note in someone's mailbox to tell them they have fantastic holiday décor. Let them know you appreciate their effort.
Invoking the season of giving isn't difficult and will inspire those around you to do the same. Acts of kindness beget future acts of kindness, and before you know it, you've inspired everyone. Happy (and kind) holidays!