As the new year approaches, many of us are busy -- shopping for gifts, cooking special meals, and traveling to spend time with family and friends. We do all this to make the holidays memorable for the people in our lives.
Despite all the bustle, we know what makes us happiest isn’t the gifts or the food, it’s spending time together. Some of the best memories can also come from making a difference in someone’s life.
Helping others makes us happier, more balanced, and instills a greater sense of purpose in everyday life. But it can be easy to get bogged down in the daily routine — especially at this time of year — and lose sight of how much we have to give.
If you’ve been thinking you’d like to make a difference this holiday season, or if lending a hand is on your list for 2019, take a look at these seven suggestions for how to begin.
1. Get Involved at Work
Many organizations have easy ways to get involved baked into the work day. For example, every year, Nielsen offers 24 hours of dedicated volunteer time to each associate through our Nielsen Cares initiative. To date, we’ve logged over 170,000 total hours and our associates have pitched in at more than 900 non-profit organizations worldwide. Check with your employer to see if it has volunteer hours or opportunities.
Finding a local organization that can use your skills is a great way to give back to your community. Hospitals, schools, youth groups, senior homes, or animal shelters are just a few that can benefit from your time. Here in Boston, we’ve volunteered at Cradles to Crayons, which helps homeless and low-income children. You can find opportunities close to home with a quick search online.
3. Feed the Hungry
Over half of all soup kitchens, food pantries and other meal programs rely entirely on volunteers. Donating money or goods can help food go further during the holidays, when resources are stretched. Spending a few hours sorting, packing or delivering food can also make an enormous difference for food banks and the families they serve. Find out if your local school or community center hosts a pantry or food drive.
A mentor guides a less experienced person by sharing their expertise and connections. Mentoring someone who would benefit from your skills, knowledge, and experience helps that individual and your community. You may know a junior colleague, student or mid-career changer whom you can help take his or her next step. Big Brothers and Big Sisters and other non-profits can also connect you with folks in your area.
5. Clean Up
Most communities have a park, roadway or playground that could use a little TLC. Consider getting a group together to pick up trash for an afternoon or as a regular event. All you need is a big box of trash bags, rubber gloves, and a bunch of volunteers. Sometimes all it takes is pointing out the area and folks are happy to lend a hand.
6. Help a Neighbor
You don’t have to go far or devote a lot of time to make a difference. Look around your neighborhood and you’ll most likely find an elderly person who lives alone, a young mother who has her hands full with a toddler, or a recent arrival who needs help finding the best grocery or nearby dentist. Simple things like shovelling after a storm, picking up a few things at the store, or lending a book can be enough to make their day.
7. Donate Blood
Blood is one of the most precious gifts you can give to another person. A decision to donate your blood can save a life or several if your blood is separated into its red cells, platelets and plasma, which can be used for patients with specific conditions. Every day, blood donors help patients of all ages: accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer. Visit the American Red Cross to find a local drive.
You Can Do It
As 2019 kicks off, consider finding a cause that matters to you and see how you can help. Raising money, collecting donations, organizing an event, volunteering or lending your expertise can make a huge difference. If you want to help but you’re stuck for ideas, reach out to any local group and learn what they need. You’ll create lasting memories for yourself and help your community thrive all year round.
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