Joy to the world: 5 ways your family can give back this holiday season


(BPT) - During the holiday season, it’s hard not to feel joyful. Coming together to celebrate with friends and family is a time to feel grateful for all you have. Holidays are also an opportunity to spread joy to others and teach your children that it is truly better to give than to receive.

Grace Harry, music industry executive and author of The Joy Strategist, says the holiday season is a great time to teach kids about empathy.

The commercialization of the holiday season has trained kids to make lists and feel entitled to get, get, get. To balance the materialistic messages they may receive, you can use the holidays to show your kids how they can support others and give back to their communities. Check out Harry’s five suggestions on how your family can spread joy to others this winter.

1. Make a meal

One of the highlights of the holidays is getting together with loved ones for meals. Set aside time during or between holidays to volunteer at a soup kitchen. Under the guidance of the staff, your family can cook and serve a nutritious meal to those in need. This activity will help nurture a spirit of compassion in your kids and allow you all to share a meaningful moment together as a family.

2. Act as Santa’s little helpers

Help out Santa by acting as his elves this holiday season. Many United States Postal Service locations offer the Operation Santa program, which allows people to adopt a letter written to Santa and fulfill the letter writer’s wish. The concept is simple. As a family, pick one (or a few!) letters written to Santa, purchase the gifts and mail them. There may also be other local programs with a similar mission that allow you to purchase and deliver gifts personally to children in need. Witnessing the joy and excitement when these children receive their surprise gifts is a gift unto itself.

3. Volunteer while you vacation

Traveling for the holidays is a privilege that not everyone experiences. This season, plan to travel with intention and give back to the places you visit. “When I travel to other countries, even if I’m at a resort, I always make a day, either at the beginning of the trip or the end, to do something in service, like reading to children in local schools,” says Harry.

There are plenty of organizations (and even travel planners) that offer opportunities to build homes, bridges, and other structures in underserved communities. By offering your time and skills, you can leave a lasting impact on the places you visit and create family memories centered on giving to others.

4. Participate in a community drive

Research local toy, clothing, and food drives in your community that collect essential items for those who can’t afford them. Often, these drives provide a list of items to take the guesswork out of donating and ensure that the donations received actually meet the needs of the community. Set time aside for your family to review the list and find gently used toys, clothing, and other items you can donate this season. Encourage your friends and neighbors to take part, too!

5. Give the gift of time

While the holidays are known as a time to gather with loved ones, not everyone has people they can spend the holidays with. Your time and presence are some of the most precious gifts you can give during the holidays. For example, your family can volunteer to sing carols at nursing homes or spend time talking and playing board games or cards with residents. These simple but heartfelt interactions can easily brighten someone’s day and fill their hearts with joy.

This holiday season, spread joy wherever you are and make a positive impact on the lives of others. Using these five tips, you can create moments with your family that you’ll cherish forever and spread the spirit of kindness and generosity that mark this time of year.

For more of these tips and to learn how to bring joy into your life, check out Grace Harry’s The Joy Strategist, available wherever books are sold.