Making A Difference This Holiday Season

Making a difference

This is a little different than my normal holiday food-type post.

This post comes from my heart, from my experience, and shares part of my life that I don’t often share with you.

The fact is that as I type this post today I am living a very different life than the life I had as a child. Right now I lack nothing; in fact, I have way more than I need.

But there was a year or two as a child, my family had very little. Looking back we always had enough. We had a roof over our heads, food on our table, and clothes on our backs, but there was a winter or two that there was not much beside that.

There was one or two years, where a holiday gift basket anonymously appeared on our porch, providing us food and gifts that we would not have had otherwise.

That food helped give us better Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners. That colorful fingernail polish and makeup made Christmas for a couple of teenage girls. Those holidays were some of my most memorable. Someone took the time to care for my family. Those little thoughts of kindness made a difference in my life.

I have seen and felt first hand the difference a small gift this time of year can make in the life of a family, and more specifically a child.

This is the time of year where everywhere you look, people are asking for donations or help. There are canned food drives, holiday gift trees where you can “adopt” a child or family, people filling shoes boxes for those in need, and food pantries begging for donations.

And this time of year many of us want to help. We feel good when we think we are helping, but I am asking you this holiday season to look past the feeling good part. Look past just the basic giving part.

I am not asking you to give or spend a lot of money. I am just asking you to stop and think about what you are doing to help. Think about what you are really giving.

When you hear about canned food or clothing drives, what do you do? Most of us reach into our pantry, look for the things that have set there awhile, and toss them into the box to help. Maybe it’s the food we got on sale that our family didn’t really like. Maybe it’s that can of tuna fish buried in the back of the pantry, just a few weeks from expiring.

Or, maybe entering the grocery store you see a dropbox, so you quickly grab the cheapest can of something that you can find to donate on your way out.

The fact is many people donate things their family would never eat or use, thinking others should be grateful to receive something at all. They only donate to give themselves the “feeling” of helping someone out.

But I ask you this holiday season to please put some thought, some real thought, into that donation before you place it in the box.

Think about the fact that you may be giving a family’s only Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. You may be giving the only gift a child receives this holiday season.

What memory do you want to create for that child and family?

As you grab a name off a tree at the mall or drop a can in a box, really think about what it means.

If a child asks for socks and underwear for Christmas, the reality is he probably needs a whole lot more. He probably needs shoes to put those new socks in. Or a coat to cover that simple t-shirt he requested. That same child has probably never owned a book, or even a toy car or doll of their own.

That child has probably never really known what a true Christmas dinner is like. His Christmas dinner might look like any other dinner, and consist of only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, because that is all the family can afford.

They may have never sat at a table full of turkey, potatoes, rolls, and pie.  That child may have no idea what a holiday meal or day really looks like.

What holiday memory do you want to give that child or family?  Put yourself on their side of the giving.

If it was your family needing a basket of food, what would you want to receive? Would you want that can of who knows what from the back of someone’s pantry? Would you want only a bag of rice, or would you love something additional to make that rice extra special. If you were on the receiving end of that gift of food, wouldn’t it be nice knowing someone really cared.

If it was your child’s name hanging from that tree, what would you really wish he could have? Yes, he needs socks and underwear, which you would be so very grateful for, but what if a pair of new shoes came with those socks? What if a little matchbox car was hiding in those new shoes?

Now, I know many of you are struggling to survive right now. There is nothing extra in your house to give. That buried can of vegetables maybe all you have to give, and I encourage you to give it. Someone will be grateful for it. Use it to teach your kids that no matter how bad you have it, there is always someone else needier.

But for those of you that have a little extra to give this holiday season, please put some thought into that gift. Step back and put yourself in the shoes of the one receiving that donation. Look beyond the back of your pantry or the bottom of your closet. Step back and think about what memory you want to create for the person you are helping.

 

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

Comments

  1. VERY WELL SAID!

  2. I love this post, giving should be a joyful experience. I want the best for my family and giving to another I want the best for them too. They deserve the best just like the rest of us. So I agree with you, it’s not just about giving it’s about what you give too and the meaning behind it.

    I also love how you mention about the cars hiding in the shoes. My dad is a major car collector, he has more toy cars than you even want to know but he gives graciously. One of the biggest joys for my son and nephews is when they go to grandpa’s they are thrilled to receive a car. Those cars cost just a few dollars and really do brighten a little boy’s day. I think that’s a terrific idea and may add a few of those to gifts this year to be given.

    I think we’ve probably all been guilty at some point of just giving whatever it is we have that we aren’t going to use without even thinking about it, so I love that you make the point to call our attention to what we are giving.

  3. Good post! Well said.

  4. Making me cry, Lynn.

  5. Rachel Cantrell says:

    Lynn, This was a beautiful and touching post. It really made me think about how I give and why. It also helped me put myself on the receiving end of these donations. Really a great post. Thank you!

    • Thanks! I appreciate that. My hope is not to make light of what people do give, because giving is great, my hope is exactly what you said, it makes you think about yourself on the receiving end.

  6. What a great post! I so agree. We were the recipients of generous food and gift hampers and ever since then I have made it a point to give above and beyond to food and clothing drives and when we adopt a family for Christmas I don’t look at the “recommended” list of what the charity suggests. I give what I would expect to sit down to at a Christmas meal. Even little things like Christmasy napkins, placemats, chocolates and treats are so necessary to making a family feel like you really care.

    • Thanks. I think once you have been on the receiving end, it makes you look at it so different. You really realize the difference it can make. And I agree on the charity suggest thing, I tend to go a little over board sometimes because I know how something little like chocolate or a special treat can mean.

  7. so touching!! bravo to you!!!

  8. What a great post, Lynn. Thanks for that excellent reminder.

  9. Thank you so very much for this post. Every year we have gone and choosen a child and or family and my kids get to pick out a toy for there chosen person or items for the family. We have also donated can upon can to the school /scout/organization food drives. This year as the food drives are approaching I seem to be getting stressed. This year it is us without. I have less than 5 canned goods in my pantry. With no income in site. Two cans are to be taken tomorrow to a food drive at school. I immediatly searched the back of my cupboard for maybe one we havent or wouldnt use. after reading this I stopped what I was doing and took the vegetables that would have been for tomorrows dinner and they are in a sack for school tomorrow. Where theres a will theres a way and I believe the lord will provide. I feel so ashamed that I did that, and have made it right. thank you again for the reminder.

    • So many are struggling this year with the economy the way it is. I am sorry that you are going through a difficult time. My mom always taught us that if you look around you will always find someone that is worse off than you are and it will make you thankful. That is tough to do, but that lesson she taught me has stayed with me and I remember it often. In doing what you did today in giving, you are teaching your kids that same thing. And your comment made me tear up, not many people who are in your position would give anything at all. What a lesson you are teaching your kids about giving and the Lord providing. The Lord does provide and it will get better! He does not give us more than we can handle! Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

      • Thank you Lynn, yes so many more are worse off than we are. During this difficult time my children are learning the value of a dollar. They are trying to cut costs and still have fun doing it. They LOVE to give and volunteer of “our” time and I know in my heart that they have directly learned that from me. <3 the lord has given us so many lessons to be blessed from and each day I, personally, am growing closer to him. The main lesson has been "we don't write our life stories, he does". This comes from years of infertility and then an amazing blessing of getting pregnant. Our son born was blind and then when he was 9 weeks old I found out I was pregnant again! Wouldn't change our trials for anything!! They are trials, we shall overcome! we always do!
        Many blessings.

        • Wow! What a story you have and what a great attitude you have about it. And “we don’t write our life stories, he does”. So very true!!!

    • Wow! Humbling.

  10. how beautiful, lynn. this definitely makes me re-think giving.

  11. thank you for this gentle & heartfelt reminder during the busy holiday season. it is easy to get so busy that we forget how wonderful the season can be when we take time to care about others.

  12. Great reminder! I have been on the lean end of holiday meals and remember how I longed to get some cheese. I could afford Mac and cheese, ramen soup and tuna….but wanted salad and cheese. I love when I can give to a family and give them some things that might be not things they can buy otherwise!

    • Thanks! So often it is the simple things that can make a difference to someone in need. Like you said a simple thing like cheese can be a real treat to those that can not afford it. Once you are on the receiving end it really makes you realize how much the little things and thoughtfulness matter.

  13. thanks for the reminder. I totally agree with making it personal. I do want to add something, and please don’t take this as a negative. We are foster parents and last year we witnessed first hand how much is available to children in need. Because our three boys had been on all these lists their entire lives we received offers for complete Turkey dinner for all eight of us, for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Their birth mom came with 2 very large garbage bags from Christmas for the needy of toys, books, and clothes including winter coats. Angel Tree donated another garbage bag full of goodies to the father (who was in jail) to give to his boys, and finally a wonderful family who has “adopted” these boys for years sent two big boxes of wonderful things to the boys. We bought gifts before we knew about all this. My own children had very little compared to these children and by the time they were done opening presents Christmas day their eyes were glazed over and they did not appreciate most of what they received. Several of the boys received books each month through a special grant at school. So here’s my advice “some” of the people receiving these items will actually have more this holiday season than you think. Go the extra step and find the family(ies) that really need it. Contact your county case worker, or your public school social worker. There may be a family you can truly bless and make a difference for. We have been able to “adopt” families and take their wish list and share with our church family and meet their needs and wants. Including boots and some special toys. We don’t buy Nintendo DS’s or XBoxes but we have seen both on the lists :-). I love this post it made me cry. I just wanted to take it the next step: make it personal find out about a real flesh and blood family you could help and do what you can. It will make a bigger difference than any item tossed into a donation box.

    • Thank you for your thoughts and experiences. I have told my kids that you can often tell how needy a kid is by looking at his Christmas wishlist. Those that ask for a pair of shoes, a coat, etc are usually the really truly needy ones. Not that asking for a xbox or other toy is bad, but if a child hopes for socks or jeans for Christmas instead of that toy, they really must have basically nothing. And thank you for making the difference in the life of a child by being a foster parent. That is a tough job and one I applaud you for! I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas!

  14. This post was a real blessing! Thank you so much!

  15. Thank you for writing this, Lynn. I have never received holiday baskets, but I HAVE had to go to the pantry on more than one occasion at various times in my life. Sometimes opening the bundles is like a joyous holiday as I thankfully filled my cupboards with staples and a treat or two, but others it’s a painful, bitter experience as I throw away packaged goods long past their expiration. It has certainly changed the way I donate.

  16. Melissa Miller says:

    This post made me cry. A few years ago a friend and I helped a family at christmas, with out them knowing. We bought presents and gift cards and on Christmas eve my friends hubby snuck out giant sack of presents over to their porch. He rang the door bell and ran. We watched from my friends living room as the mom opened the door and stood there and cried and hugged her family and she yelled out “Merry Christmas and Thank you.”
    I have been in spots where I needed help and did not receive any so now We as a family try to help others when we can. This year we are helping the Angel Tree.

  17. this is a wonderful post, made me think.

  18. Thank you, Lynn, for a beautifully written, informative post. You have helped to remind us of what giving really means. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in our own wants that we’re unable to see what others really need. You’re right; we often give the cheapest/ easiest thing when we give to others we don’t know. Sometimes, we skimp on the giving and then splurge on ourselves or our own families. If imagining ourselves in the “what if we were in need” situation helps, then imagine away. Thanks again, and keep up the good work.

  19. Lynn, beautiful post and so very true. I have been on both sides of the giving (in a hurry and grab what my hand comes across first and also planning out and really digging into the wallet and blessing someone with thought and care). Our children notice what we do and how we do it more than what we say. We have worked as a family to prepare packages for women and children in local shelter, the ones whose wishlists are mostly for “need” products (personal care, diapers, etc.) and it’s great that our children are excited to learn about budgeting and using coupons on the needs stuff so we can purchase “extras” like chocolates, candles, perfume, baby toys, clothes, etc. that were not on the list. They like to save as much money as possible to buy the “fun stuff”. It also helps us learning to pray as a family for each package we put together. We won’t be able to do as much this year, but we are going to look forward to it again for the ones we can do and thank God for blessing us by allowing us to bless others.

  20. B.E.A.utiful post Lynn. I 100% concur. My husband and I were having a discussion recently about this because the kids just wanted to grab whatever cans of stuff that they could find in my pantry to bring to a food drive at school and my husband was all in support of it. I asked him if he would want to eat ramen noodles or tuna on Thanksgiving day?? I took the kids to the store and picked out all kinds of T-day goodies. His point was that people need food everyday of the year – which I agree but – at this time of year especially, it would be nice for everyone to have a warm traditional, special meal for their family and food banks need these kind of goodies to give out.
    Anyway, beautifully written, made me cry ^_^ Thank you for sharing “the other end of the spectrum” as well. Makes me feel that all the special details ARE worth the effort and that someone on the other end really do appreciate them. Blessings. :)

  21. Very well said. We should ought to share the blessings we receive. It will really make you feel better especially if you see the smiling faces of the ones that receive your gift.

  22. This post was a blessing and you are a blessing, Lynn. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  23. Just came over from Meredith (Like Merchant Ships) and, wow. You’ve really hit the nail on the head with this! Thank you!

  24. Like Christi, I saw this on Meredith’s tumbler. This was a wonderful post and even before reading this, we chose to give more than was expected by the recipients this year (a Baltimore Ravens sweatshirt and 365 days Ravens calendar for a child who wanted a piece of Ravens apparel; a bucket of cars, instead of just one, for a 1 year old; an outfit, pajamas, and a Dora doll with clothes for a young girl whose mother listed an outfit or a Dora doll, etc.) I’m not trying to brag, just pointing out that for a few dollars more for each child, we are giving them something more than they or their parents are expecting. We also picked up some inexpensive gloves, puzzles, and activity books so their parents can give them little stockings of presents, too. January will be a lean month because we’ll need to replenish the checking account, but I’m willing to give up a couple meals out knowing that some children are better dressed or have a toy because of us.

    I was intrigued by the comments from Sheila, the foster mom. I’ve often wondered if that happens. The names we chose from the tree at church came from the local public grade school’s staff and from a women’s and children’s shelter, so I don’t think they are going to get much more than what we at church give them.

    Finally, having sorted food at a Red Cross pantry years ago, I completely agree with you on the food donations a few people make. When you have to wipe the dust off the can, it’s not a good donation choice. Caviar is also not a good choice – seriously! The true winners were the people who called and offered to deliver the food baskets, but didn’t want to bother gathering the food outside the grocery store or sorting it on the shelves or assembling the baskets. They just wanted to see the smiles on the faces of the recipients so they could feel like Lord or Lady Bountiful. No, they didn’t get to make the deliveries!

    • Thanks. For so many kids and families it really is the little things that count and I am sure the kids that receive your gifts will love them. And I agree, giving up a few meals out or a few other things to help someone in need is so worth it.

  25. We adopted a 9 year old homeless girl this Christmas. I was tempted to just dig in my gift box and find “stuff” for her. I just couldn’t do it. Instead I went to Target and spent 4 times the amount my husband and I had agreed on. I just kept finding little items that don’t cost much, but that I knew she has probably never even owned (like a bottle of nail polish!). We take so much for granted. We are by no means “rich” but we certainly have plenty to give and I had so much fun spending an hour shopping for her. I really hope her little heart is just overjoyed with what I chose for her! (And I have to admit I’m kind of sad that I won’t be there to see her face when she opens her gifts!)

    • I am sure she will love those stuff. For many children it is the simple things like nail polish that they have never had that will mean so much. And really those kinds of gifts only cost a small amount and yet make a huge difference to them. And I agree the giving and choosing what to give part is so much fun.

  26. last year, we had to sign up for holiday assistance on gifts for the kids(and Im not sure how its done in other places, but here you go through a central office and then distributed out to charities so no one applies at several ones), dh had just found employment in october after 2 years and we were still playing catch up so there was definitely nothing for christmas. while my then 3 year old daughter and 11 year old son made out good, my poor 13 year old daughter got short changed. All she asked for was a hoodie or coat and a few art supplies(drawing pads, pastels, paints, etc), she recieved the hoodie and a box of crayons. we used some of utility money to get her a couple things. I guess my point is, don’t overlook the teens either. (we made a donation of makeup and nail polish that i got cheap or free at our location Salvation Army to go to teen girls, and some cologne for the guys)

    Another good suggestion..i found out here anyways, single people are ineligible to apply for food baskets so how many seniors possibly go without? maybe contact a senior center or office on aging and see if there is someone that needs a little cheer with a hot dinner and a present or 2

  27. Angi @ schneiderpeeps says:

    Lynn, this is my first visit to your blog – I found this post through Meredith’s blog – and I have to say, “Thank You” for the reminder. We have been the recipient of gifts before and the heartfelt gifts are definately more meaningful. Our gifts have come from people at church who knew our family was struggling at the time and took it up on themselves to anomously help us out.

    I think since we have been without luxuries at times, it makes us really think about what and to whom we are giving. Each year we try to find people in our community that are often overlooked to bless them. For instance, we bake alot of treats this time of year and give them to (among other people) our garbage collectors, the guys at the city recycling place – we don’t have curbside recycling, the fire station that is near our home, and on Christmas a friend comes to pick some up for the local women’s shelter. This has become a wonderful family tradition.

  28. I so well remember a Christmas that as a single mom we had a fire four days before Christmas at our apartment. No insurance and everything was lost. The only gift was two matchbox cars for my sons. I always think of those two tiny cars and the fact my two boys received them from strangers.

  29. Thank you for this post. A lot of good ideas and information here. I wanted to share that I have run in to an abundance of need in others this year. I do attend church, and deal every day with many who do not. My husband is a retired police officer, and we have had rental properties for 20+ years. This year, the week before Thanksgiving, I had three grown men ask me if we had any work, a mother share that she absolutely nothing to give her family a Thanksgiving dinner, and then she didn’t know what she would do for Christmas. She had signed up for the angel tree last year, but this year she had a job and could not take off work to go there. So unless “GOD” provided for her children’s Christmas they wouldn’t have anything. I started making suggestions about what to do for Thanksgiving. I told her that I would make sure they had a meal. She hugged me and went off trusting me to do that. In my head I was taking the ‘first step” and would deal with Christmas next week. I asked my church for some money and I added to it and gave it to her to buy their meal, and she was very happy. She offered the money to me first, because she still owed rent. I backed off and told her no, I couldn’t take it, it was for their table. She cried and asked if she could hug me.

    I had shared with my neice this story, and about how overwhelmed by need I felt and how I wasn’t sure how to proceed and what to do about all the need that had been presented to me. I attend a congregation that is not really anxious to help others, it seems to me. So Before I left the parking lot from giving my tenant her Thanksgiving money, my neice emailed me. It was Sunday and she was just getting out of church herself. She said she told the story to her sunday school class about how I said there was so much need in our community this year that others weren’t aware of. Her class adopted the family for Christmas and wants to pay their rent. The mother, in tears gave me the info for the small kids, ages 3 and 5. The class told me to call back and get the big kids info too, the 15 and 17 year olds that she was afraid to share with us. So my eyes were opened to the fact that if we all work together, our little becomes a lot, and we can all act like Jesus and care for the need around us. I felt uneasy because they wanted to pay her rent. My neice told me not to be silly, if they wanted to pay, let ;them. I go to a small country congregation and this is a large, wealthy city congregation. She said it would bless the family to not pay rent in December. So I let that go.

    I also got work for two of the men, which they tell me has grown into other daily offers of work. Just raking yards and decorating for the holidays but it is a start.

    The last man is a registered sex offender. Something from when he was a teenager with a younger girlfriend and her parents didn’t like him. I believe the girl is now his “wife”. I’m not sure what to do there yet, but I will keep thinking on this. I think my husband is going to try to use him some.

    Sometimes its not the people under the bridge who need help, or just the foster kids. Sometimes it is working families that we know and see everyday. But my husband says I collect needy people, so maybe I’m the only one who runs into this. That you for your good work, Lynn.

    • Thanks for sharing what you did this year. I so agree that it is not always the ones that are homeless or foster kids, although they often do. Many times it is the families around us that need help the most and are often overlooked. And I don’t think people “collect” needy people. I think some people are just more observant and caring in that way. Some people just see the need or needs, when others don’t. For me, I think having so many people care and share with my family over the years, makes me try to be more observant of others. I will never be able to repay those that gave to use over the years when I was a kid, but I can repay them by passing that giving on to someone else.

  30. Just wanted to share what I have done in the past. We have a local woman’s abuse shelter that houses only 12 at a time. One year I asked what they needed and the director told me the kids always have gifts but the woman sometimes don’t. I have made it a mission to make 12 baskets. One thing the shelter asks for is bathrobes and no one seems to want to donate those. That is one thing I do. I find them on sale at christmas usually less than 20 the nice plush red ones. I add super soft socks, gloves and scarfs, chapstick, etc. I make snowman soup for each girl. I look for things through out the year. Avon is a good one for chapstick and lotions they put on sale and free shipping. When I deliver I try and add a platter of homemade cookies. This year we have a abundunce of eggs from our chickens so I’ve been taking them when I can. You are so right every thing helps. I am blessed that I can help sometimes I even have girlfriends that will give money for me to get things for them too. It all makes a difference if you come in with nothing!

  31. Great blog, very VERY well-said. I am glad you re-posted it this year, and am providing a link to this post on SparkPeople.

  32. Colleenie says:

    Thoughtful article. As a senior citizen going thru a bankruptcy with my husband and not knowing if we will have a roof over our heads in a couple of months, so many are so needy. Life is scary and uncertain right now, very different from 30 years ago. Thanks again Lynn.

  33. Thank you for the reminder of what giving is all about. May you and your family be blessed beyond measure.

  34. This was a wonderful post. I’m knitting mittens this year to donate to our Salvation Army so they can be included in the gifts that are given.

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  1. […] and make treats, it’s easy to forget those who are less fortunate than ourselves. And as Lynn pointed out recently, there generally always is someone less […]

  2. […] few week’s back Lynn, from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventure wrote this post, Making a Difference this Holiday Season.  This is a post that may challenge some of us, but I agree with every word.  When you have a […]

  3. A Season of Thoughtful Giving says:

    […] year I came across this article from Lynn at Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures and it really had an impact on how I choose what […]

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