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Today is the last day of October, Halloween, and for some, tomorrow marks the first day of the holiday season. With the holidays fast approaching, most people find this time of year exciting. There is joy, family, friends, celebrations, and a lot of busyness that goes along with the holiday season. But for some it’s not quite so joyful because there isn’t enough to eat, not enough resources for presents, maybe no family close by or friends to hang out with. The holidays can be discouraging and depressing for some. But, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. The holidays are also a great opportunity to reach out and help, and there are so many ways to do so, not just at the holidays, but all year long.

I was reminded today when I walked into my Church building and saw stacks of canned corn and green beans, of our combined efforts during the Thanksgiving season, with many other religious denominations throughout the valley we live in, to donate to what we call “The Thanksgiving Blessing.” My Church group, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is responsible for all the cans of corn and beans for the blessing. We gather thousands of cans, through individual wards, as well as through youth competitions, our Seminary group is participating with the other Seminary groups in a challenge to have the most donated by the youth in our class, I think the reward is a pizza party. They enjoy competing, and the cans get collected. Not only does this bless the people receiving the food, so they have a Thanksgiving meal, but we get to work with so many people from all over our valley who we might never have gotten to know otherwise. It’s a great win/win for everyone, and you don’t have to be a member of any of the religious congregations to donate or receive a dinner. I love the opportunity to collaborate, as well as to help those in the most need during the holidays.

Every year in my little community, the Lion’s club organizes a gift giving program for families who can’t provide presents for their kids. Several of the businesses around town put up little Christmas trees with stars, one star for each child. There are no names, just ages and sizes of the child. Some are young children, some are teenagers. My kids have enjoyed over the years taking a star and going out shopping for someone else. It’s fun for them to have the opportunity to do something nice for someone who will never be able to say thank you, because it’s really not about the thank you, but the opportunity to help someone else. I know of many communities who do the same thing, as well as the toys for tots programs, and the military and many police stations also have programs. So, this year, if you can, look around for one of those gift giving trees, or boxes for toys for kids in need (We have them at many businesses as well). They are a great opportunity to inject a little more holiday spirit into yours, and someone else’s Christmas this year.

Light the World is a great opportunity to share with someone else. This is a program set up by my Church worldwide where you can get ideas about helping your neighbor right next door (there’s a calendar that I will hopefully remember to link to when it comes out), to helping bring supplies, water, food, etc. to someone halfway across the world. All the money and donations given go directly to what it says it does, and none of it goes to pay the people who make it happen. If you want to make a donation that you know will count this is a great way to do so.

You don’t necessarily have to give money or things this season to give a little cheer to others though. There are opportunities to give of your time as well (the Light the World Calendar has a lot of ideas). Our youth groups over the years have gone caroling to senior housing places, hospitals, and just around locally to elderly people who maybe need a little lift. One year my kids and I went and helped wrap the Lion’s Club presents for all the kids that had donated items. It was impressive how many presents there were, but more impressive how fast those presents got wrapped. What an awesome opportunity to be on the back side of that wonderful organization’s efforts to help the community.

So, whether you’re donating money, items, or just giving of your time, the holiday season is a great time to start giving. But, it shouldn’t end there, we can donate and share ourselves and our time all year long if we look around and see a need. What are some things you donate to during the holidays, in time, money, or items? I would love to hear your ideas.

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