At Christmas, more than any other time of year, it's easy to get caught up in the consumer bubble. Lots of shopping, getting ourselves party ready and stocking up on all those festive treats is lots of fun and makes for a cracking Christmas, but if you want to help others too this season, then I have a few ideas to get you started. Hopefully, one of these will be suitable for you, without costing too much or venturing too far from home.
It's horrible to think of, but there are thousands of people out on the streets here in the UK, even children with no home to go to, no twinkling tree, no hot turkey dinner and no bed to cosy into on Christmas Eve. Santa won't visit us all, but we can all do something to help someone else, by either helping towards shelter, getting fed or at the very least keeping warm and dry. You know how you buy a man in your life some socks each Christmas, and it's all a bit of a joke each year, but somewhere out there is a guy with nothing that would feel like the luckiest man on earth getting some fresh warm socks this Christmas and it's the least we can do isn't it?
I think now is the perfect time to put extra thought into those with less than we have. The temperatures are dropping and with Christmas hot on our tails, it can really drive home the feeling of loneliness for some. Whether you can donate a few pence to a local charity, donate some old clothes or even donate some suitable gifts, helping others should be as important on our festive 'to do' lists as buying family gifts. It baffles me that most families will think nothing of buying presents for pets, while there's other humans out there with nothing, lets help with that.
So here's five super easy ways we can all help others this Christmas;
Help others keep warm
Every day you hear someone moaning about the cold right now and it really means nothing when you have the option to add extra layers, buy a warm drink or go cosy up at home on the sofa, when many are out in the streets with only the clothes on their back and even some in their own home that simply can't afford the mammoth bills required to be paid in order to keep warm. There are lots of ways we can help though and it doesn't even have to cost you anything. Many towns and cities have 'warm rails' where people can hang their pre loved (or new) coats, hats, scarves and gloves for those that need them to claim easily to keep warm over winter. We all have at least one thing we could donate and that could make a big difference to someone out there. You could even tie scarves to lampposts with a label on to say people can have it if they need it. When you go to places like Primark and Poundland you can pick up two pairs of gloves for £1, we could then give those to two people to keep their hands a little warmer and I think we could all manage to do this at least once. Have a quick Google and see if there are any collections in your area for warming items, and if not simply hand some out to those in need when you wander around your town.
Help people to get fed
It makes me feel a little sick when I think of how glutenous I am over Christmas, when others will spend the day with a rumbling tummy without even a sip to drink. As well as the homeless of which many will go hungry this Christmas, there will be many families in our community just like ours that won't be able to afford a tree, let alone presents to go under it or to put a meal on the table. We could all donate something to local food bank collections in super markets, drop some bits off at homeless shelters, donate or volunteer with soup kitchens or give out food parcels on the street. As Tesco say, every little helps and this is so true. Even if like me you're feeling the pinch this year, we can still give a pound to a charity, a bag of pasta to a food bank, a few snacks to someone living on the street or a few hours of our time to help get people fed.
Help local families in crisis
For the families in our community that may be at crisis point, with no gifts for their kids,, needing clothes, food and a bit of normality, there are plenty of ways to help. We could donate unwanted toys and gifts to collections for local families that are often run by local churches. We could volunteer at any local events for families in crisis or help gather items to gift. Have a quick search to see what's going on locally to you and reach out on Facebook to see if anyone knows of any initiatives or box appeals you could contribute to.
Spend time with those alone & make their day
Many elderly people will be alone for Christmas and there are lots of ways we can help. If you can, you could be extra nice and invite someone you know will be alone for Christmas dinner, tea or even for a mince pie and cup of tea. Seeing someone just for a few minutes each week can add a bit of light to what can be dark long lonely days and can be beneficial to you as well as them. There are volunteer befriending programmes that you may be able to get in on for Christmas, but even if you sign up now for the new year you could be giving someone elderly something to look forward to for just a few minutes of your time a week. You could even see if your local hospital is accepting visitors to have a chat with those stuck there over the festive period. Make sure your own relatives are having company this year too, a trip to Gran with the kids could make a world of difference.
Help the homeless
There are lots of ways you can help the homeless over winter and Christmas. As above, you can donate warming clothing items to warm rails and shelters, give items like gloves out directly, help out at soup kitchens, donate food to shelters or give out food packs. As well as any of these, you could report rough sleepers via an app like Streetlink, or even just sit with them, give them a hot drink and have a chat. Although not always wanted, to some this could make a huge difference to them, make them happy and give them a little hope which is what it should all be about at Christmas. Again, do a little research to see what's going on in your local area to see how you could help.
It's easy to overlook our own good fortune, even if we feel skint or that we could be better off, we are richer in many ways to some folk and to give a little back and help those in need, we can see how fortunate we are and help others by bringing a little light into their life at Christmas.