Thanksgiving season always gets me thinking about how grateful I am for everything in my life. And it also gets me thinking about how much I want to help those that are less fortunate than me. The act of giving back always sounds so great in theory, but if we are being honest, I think a lot of us would agree that it also feels pretty daunting. Where do we start? How do we have the most impact? What organization would I choose? What if I don’t want to volunteer? Especially if you’re in the same season as me, with very young kids. In this season it feels as though we’re already operating at max bandwidth and have no capacity for helping others. Totally understandable, I know for me personally, I have had to put all of that on the back burner for the last five years while I try to get my feet under my again after having kids. But the truth is, there are sooo many ways to make a powerful impact on someones day, or life, that takes very little energy for you.
So, how can we help those less fortunate, those having a run of bad luck, those that are trying to get back up after life knocks them down when we are already at full capacity. Well, I have compiled a list of some of my favourite accessible ways of spreading joy and kindness to others. Since I know a lot of you are already maxed out, I tried to be intentional about only including acts that are no-low cost, not exceedingly time-consuming, and a lot of them are things you don’t even have to go out of your way to do honestly. And for a BIG bonus I only included acts that can be done by or with your kids, regardless of how young they are. For me, a core principle of parenting is teaching my kids to be kind and to recognize just how privileged we are, and what a better way to teach that lesson than to give back and do acts of kindness every single day.
I hope this list offers you lots and lots of ways to help that feels super approachable. Please comment below the post, email me, or contact me on Social Media to share with me what you thought about these ideas and share with me if you put any into action.
A thank you for your mail delivery person. My mom does this every year. It can be just a thank you note, or a note and a small gift. Examples could be a gift card, a cute mug with a package of hot chocolate inside, a craft you made with your kids, etc.
Front Porch Drop Off - this one is one I like to do from time to time and take it form me, the impact is MASSIVE. It can be done for a friend, or a neighbor. And the idea is to drop off either something they need or something to bring them joy. I do this when someone has just had a baby for example. Simple things like bone broth, gossip magazines, an eye mask... If a friend isnt feeling well you could drop off a bag of comfort food groceries like canned soup and mac and cheese. To bring joy to a neighbor it could be flowers, a gift certifite, a box of choocolates, anything! and you can do this anonymysly or not.
In line at the coffee shop? Let the teller know that you'd like to cover the persons order in the car or line behind you.
Snow season? Shovel our neighbors driveway and sidewalk. Our neighbor, who we don't even know that well, did this for us last year when we were all down with the virus and it was honestly the sweetest gesture, it made me cry. Not particularly a fan of your neighbor? Do it for an elderly person in your neighborhood instead.
Do you use Amazon? did you know that you can use Amazon Smile instead? If you choose to use amazon smile, a small percentage of your purchase goes to a charity of your choosing at NO EXTRA COST to you. It's amazing! here are the instructions:
Speaking of Amazon...Did you know lots of organizations, teachers, non profits etc have Amazon wish lists? By using this feature you can buy their most needed items and it gets shipped straight to them. Click here for Chairty wishlists, and to find a list for a specific person you can click here, but it might be easier just to ask them for the link.
In a lineup somwhere and not in a particular hurry? Let the person behind you go ahead of you.
See a mom struggling with a door or getting her stroller down some stairs? Instead of commenting on how full her hands are, take action. Grab the door, ask her if its ok if you help her get the stroller down the stairs.
If you have a child in daycare or school, find out their care provider or teachers coffee order and bring it to him or her one morning.
Leave gratitude or love notes for your partner or supporters. (like a "thinking of you" on the coffee pot)
Anytime I notice somewhere wearing a bit of a statement piece... Funky shoes, cool earrings etc, I make a point to comment. Wow those shoes are awesome! Those earrings are so unique, I love them! Even if it's not something you'd see yourself in, odds are they find pride in that item and knowing a stranger noticed can be a big confidence boost.
Make (or buy) soup for a sick friend
Give a friend flowers, just because. If you can't make room in the budget, pick them wildflowers.
Make or buy little gifts for your kids classmates. This one was inspired by my oldest, Flynn. When he heard it was thanksgiving he really wanted to take his friends gifts. We wanted to make them something but it was thought of in bed the night before their feast day so we just didn't have the time. Instead, I made a drive up order at target for some 3 and 5 dollar party favors and put two in a bag for each kid. It ended up being only about 10 dollars to give a gift to the entire class (he does have a small class). Of course the kids receiving the gift loved this but you should have seen the joy it brought Flynn and Wilder to do this for their friends. THEY WERE BEAMING!
Here's another option for a little classroom joy.. there is a mom in my son's class who is always making the cutest, most thoughtful handmade treats for the kids for snack time. I see the happiness it brings these kids every time and I think it's also something that brings her joy. It has inspired me to start making more homemade items for our snack day.
Have loved ones with young kids? Make them a babysitter coupon card that they can cash in anytime for a special evening out. If you also have little ones and evenings are difficult for you to get away you can offer this for a day date, or a trip to the salon or anything for the parents to get some self care in, just have their kids over to your house for a play date. This does an especially long way if your friends don't have a lot of support.
If you know a family with a farm bring the kids and chip in for a day during their busiest season helping with any jobs they give you.
Offer to pet sit for someone while they are out of town
Buy some $10 gift cards to your local hospital cafeteria and drop them off at the NICU area and ask someone there to pass them out to a few of the parents that might need it the most.
If you had an exceptional service experience consider leaving a much larger than normal tip.
Make some care kits for the homeless and keep them in your car. Pass them out if you se someone you think could be in particular need of one. Include what you think is best but here are a few ideas to get you started... Toiletries, first-aid items, ready to eat meals or filling snacks, tools like a can opener or flashlight, and feminine hygiene products
If you have coats, gloves, or scarves you and your kids no longer need consider keeping them in the back of your car and passing them out to the homeless if you see someone without proper winter gear.
If you are in Canada, donate new or like new clothing to Mamas for Mamas. they have 6 branches throughout Canada.
Celebrate your friends and family, big time. Have a friend just complete a course? Is is your brothers birthday? Make a big deal out of them. As adults we often don't want to make a fuss, but it truly is incredible when someone makes a big deal out of you, without you asking.
Donate feminine hygiene products to your local womens shelters.
Hand all of your kids gently used toys and clothing to local organizations instead of throwing them away There are also thrift stores with amazing missions in most towns.
Do a quick google search on how you can be a companion to a sneior citizen near you
Conversations to Remember provides high school and college students a way to virtually visit with lonely senior citizens
Brighten-A-Day is nonprofit that combats isolation and spreads cheer by sending love, hope, and joy through letters, encouraging video messages, friendly conversations, care packages, devices, and more.
Grow vegetables and herbs with your kids and give some to neighbors, acquaintances, and loved ones. We did this with our herb garden this year and it was really fun. I also love the idea of growing a little flower bed and giving them out to strangers.
Mow a neighbors lawn
If you are in a season that has a bit more space for time, do a google search for your local charities and pick the one that resonates the most with you and sign up for volunteering.