#GivingTuesday and making a difference (Advent Calendar, Day 4)

Yesterday, a successful grown woman told me a story. I’ll call her Annie. To look at her, no one would suspect she had encountered anything but a good life. Professional, well-spoken, and respected in her field, she has always seemed a friendly and loving person but “put together,” meaning she has her life in order.

Annie told me about a Thanksgiving in her childhood when a strange man came up to her house and dropped off a sack of food. She didn’t know who it was, and she never saw him again. She didn’t even learn his name.

Annie started to cry as she told me, “Later, my mom told me that our food stamps had run out for the month and we had no food in the house. We literally had not one thing to eat. She called a local church, desperate, and they found someone willing to donate food so we could eat on Thanksgiving.”

I didn’t hold her hand, but it was because I wanted to respect her emotional space. I wanted to hug her, to wipe away her tears, or to pat her hand. Instead, I bobbed my head in agreement as Annie came to her final point.

“When we talk about being kind and giving to others, we usually mean our family and friends. How many people are willing to give to a complete stranger? That one act changed my entire life. He didn’t end world hunger or cure cancer, but he changed my whole world for the better.”

Yesterday, the entire nation filled social media with “Giving Tuesday,” an initiative to stamp out some of the greedy, crass commercialism of the holidays and replace it with a focus on what’s most important.

Today (I know, it’s really Wednesday instead of Tuesday, but work with me), I’d like you to help me make a difference.

Making a difference is not just about money! We can:

  • offer to help someone
  • offer friendship
  • stick up for someone who has been treated unfairly
  • listen to someone who is lonely
  • rethink our prejudices
  • bite our tongue when tempted to speak harshly
  • open our hearts to someone who is not like us

Please choose one or more of the following options (or come up with your own idea) and tell us in the comments how you will make a difference today.

(Disclaimer: I chose causes that I have long supported and/or that have come up during the first few days of Advent Calendar discussions. It is not exhaustive. If a cause that you hold dear is not in this list, please add it in your comment!)

  1. Read about Invisible People, an outreach program for people who live without a home.
    “Since its launch in November 2008, InvisiblePeople.tv has leveraged the power of video and the massive reach of social media to share the compelling, gritty, and unfiltered stories of homeless people from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. The vlog (video blog) gets up close and personal with veterans, mothers, children, layoff victims and others who have been forced onto the streets by a variety of circumstances. Each week, [they’re] on InvisiblePeople.tv, and high traffic sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, proving to a global audience that while they may often be ignored, they are far from invisible.”
  2. Learn more about Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia at Alzheimer’s Association. If you have a loved one with dementia, consider using a registry such as MedicAlert: Safely Home (Canada) or MedicAlert: Safe Return (US). For $62 plus $35 annual renewal fee, your loved one will be entered in a national, 24/7, generator-backed-up, worldwide-recognized database complete with his or her medical/personal history, emergency numbers, and a hotline should he or she ever wander off or get lost. The information hotline operators could not be more professional, helpful, or reassuring.
  3. Read about this mom’s experience with taking her autistic child trick-or-treating and coming to terms with her parenting of a child with special needs. Sometimes it’s nothing about money and everything about compassion.
  4. Watch this video (“Silver Line Caller: Not Lonely Anymore”) about Silver Line (UK and Scotland), a program where volunteers call elderly folks, especially those who are isolated, to chat and offer friendship. (Thank you to Ami Starsong for making me aware of this organization.)
  5. Consider purchasing an item on the registry for Lost-N-Found Youth, an Atlanta, Georgia (US) organization that helps LGBT youth who are on the streets. Read more about their objectives on their website. You do not have to live in Atlanta to donate; you can buy an item online at My Registry (click on the first link) to have it shipped to Lost-N-Found Youth. (Thank you to Jade Crystal for contributing #5 and #6.)
  6. Consider purchasing an item on the Amazon registry for the Ali Forney Center (New York City, US). Learn more about their work on their website, and find resources in fifteen other areas in the US.
  7. Learn more about organ and tissue donation, and consider registering (driver’s license registration is not enough). If you have registered as an organ or tissue donor, tell your family of your wishes. They will have final say.
  8. Make a living will. Don’t know what it is or why you need one? Read this article by the Mayo Clinic. You are never too young to make a living will (at least if you are old enough to read this blog!), and laying out your wishes in a clear form will make things easier on your loved ones should anything happen to you. 18-year-olds can (heaven forbid) become paralyzed in accidents or slip into comas. It may be hard to think about the end of your life, but your family will appreciate knowing your wishes when the time comes.
  9. Read about the work of Covenant House Toronto. (Thank you to Michelle B. for the Canadian links.)
  10. Consider donating to SickKids Foundation (Canada).
  11. Browse through this list of charity organizations in Canada.
  12. Read this list of “Random Acts of Kindness for Kids,” a list of ways for kids (and adults!) to do something nice for others. One of my favorites: Sit with someone new at lunch today. We all can appreciate someone sharing a meal with us.
  13. Read or re-read Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary, one of the great authors of children’s fiction. It’s a wonderful story of a little girl whose family manages to survive through Dad losing his job and the children worrying whether their parents will be able to take care of them. During this season of overspending and appallingly spoiled children, reading Ramona and Her Father is a breath of fresh air. For those of us who are struggling financially (especially when children are involved), it’s a way to take comfort.
  14. Read or re-read Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, another book about three young children growing up in genteel poverty. Their struggles to make life interesting and worthwhile never fail to put a smile on my face.
  15. Read about the creation of Luna, the story of a girl who was born a boy, and how people have been killed because of their sexual identity.
  16. Learn more about and/or consider donating to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (US). This comprehensive site offers a hotline, informational posts, support, and other resources for those who have been affected by sexual mistreatment. One of their recent public education campaigns was to discourage “rapeface” as a social media joke.
  17. From Tara Finnegan:
    Here there is a Christmas shoebox appeal, and you fill a shoe box with things like soap toothbrushes, underwear, sweets and toys and these get sent to places outside Ireland, to children who get nothing else, We do this in November, in the hope the parcels will arrive near Christmas http://secure.teamhope.ie/csa
  18. Volunteer, sign up to foster, or donate to your local Humane Society or SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
  19. Check out this website (courtesy of Michelle B): https://abusehurts.com/
  20. From Tracey Horton:
    Contact your local schools. The school nurse knows the families in need. They will tell you ages and if it is a boy or girl. They will do it anonymously.

    Also during summer vacation remember the hungry. A lot of kids get free breakfast and lunch at school. When summer comes they are at home and they don’t have the food. Your local food shelf needs spaghetti O’s, peanut butter, jelly, Mac and cheese. Stuff like that.

Won’t you make a difference today? Go and do it right now, and come back to let us know how it went.

P.S. A special note: Please keep Ria and her family in your prayers and thoughts today.

Today, my family is preparing an intervention for one of my siblings. They are flying in from abroad and across the US. Mental abuse is so very hard to overcome. Thankfully, no children are involved. We have prepared a place for her (furnished with ongoing support). Our challenge is to make her believe how very loved she is and to support her in all her decisions now and in the future. She knows she is loved but does not believe she is worth it. Pray for us!!

Ana Xmas Pic

Artwork by Penelope Hasler

169 thoughts on “#GivingTuesday and making a difference (Advent Calendar, Day 4)

  1. paul1510 says:

    it’s such a shame that we need a special day to be kind to others.
    It is my experience that in this community kindness is better spread. 😉
    A living will is good, I have done this.
    All the suggestions above are helpful.
    I would make a further suggestion, if I may; be kind to our world, because if we are not, we may not have it much longer.


  2. Ami says:

    Reading all of the above gives me a lump in my throat because we need to think about all these things ALL OF THE TIME and not just because Christmas is approaching. It is very hard to limit ourselves to just one charity or good cause. There are usually some causes nearer to our hearts than others. I know that this year I have supported Cancer Research, our local Hospice, and Age Concern more than any of the others, and I do try to pick a gift to send to Africa each Christmas, such as paying for a goat, or a few chickens, or even some seeds and gardening tools. Just a small thing.

    Our town has, over the past year, set up a FOOD BANK. In every supermarket, and at some of the churches, there are collection points where you can leave certain foodstuffs, taken from a list you are given, such as rice, pasta, tinned fruit and vegetables, tea and coffee, powdered milk, breakfast cereals, anything in fact that a family needs to create meals. This is because the recession has meant that some families are suffering very real hardship and are finding it difficult even to put food on the table.

    These foodstuffs are tinned or packaged or dried in order that they can be kept on shelves and will not go bad. Then people go and fill a shopping basket free of charge. Such a small thing – to put a few extra items in your shopping trolley and then after payment to pop them in at the collection points. Just a small thing.

    Perhaps the most important gift we can give is the gift of our time. An hour or two here and there. A few extra minutes. A quick chat or an offer of support.

    Just a small thing.

    Many hugs


  3. Tara Finnegan says:

    What a lovely thought provoking post Ana. Christmas is a time for giving, and as you say, that giving does not have to be monetary. Nor should it only be about your own. Growing up, we were told that you left the lights on the tree as a sign of welcome and shelter to a weary traveller who might need it in the Christmas season. In this day and age, it may be a bit dangerous to welcome a stranger into your home but there is still much that can be done.

    There are a few things I like to do at Christmas, and I do them every year, hope they count. I’ll be able to do one of them at least today.
    I make a donation to our local dog shelter, they are always inundated with unwanted pets that were given as Christmas gifts, then people quickly discover the pets don’t fit into their lifestyle.
    I participate in a giving tree, our local toy shop has a tree sponsored by St Vincent de Paul, and when I buy my children gifts, I buy 3 gifts for less advantaged children and leave them under the giving tree, I choose children the same age and sex as mine, as if I was buying for them.
    Here there is a Christmas shoebox appeal, and you fill a shoe box with things like soap toothbrushes, underwear, sweets and toys and these get sent to places outside Ireland, to children who get nothing else, We do this in November, in the hope the parcels will arrive near Christmas http://secure.teamhope.ie/csa

    I always include these items in my Christmas budget and shopping list as a thanks for what we have and the good fortune that made it that way. The way I see it, it was just good luck that made me be born into my world, I could so easily have been born in war torn Afghanistan, or the recession could have robbed me of my home. But for the grace of God, as they say.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Giving dogs as Christmas gifts and then dumping them at shelters makes my blood boil. Maren’s Pets series (the last one, Bebe), is such a powerful message about that kind of cruelty.

      I love the idea to buy extra gifts for kids your children’s ages.

      I will add your link! I was hoping people would give links because not everyone lives in the US or Canada.

      And absolutely.


  4. Leah says:

    I’m going to check into your book list. Ramona and Her Father was a favorite of mine as a child and my kids love it too. It does a good job of addressing financial issues (and the dad’s smoking!)

    Another great read for families is Wonder.

    Today we’ll pick out some names for gifts for a local battered women’s shelter. The kids and I will shop today or later this week.

    Great post today!


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I totally forgot about the smoking, but you’re right! “Once is funny, twice is not, third is a spanking!”

      LOL. And poor Ramona gets scolded when it was really Beezus.

      Wonder is a new one. I will look it up, so thank you!


  5. terpsichore says:

    How wonderful a world it would be if we were kind and loving every day. Every year at this time, the children pick out gifts which we donate to Toys for Tots. Through Scouts we send cards to people in the military who keep our country safe and give gifts to a Secret Santa family. And we donate food to our local food pantry. It does not seem like much, and I would like to be more mindful, not just during this season, but throughout the year. I will check out more of what you shared – a lot of wonderful organizations out there to support. I everyone did a small act of kindness, even the gift of a smile, or the gift of time, that kindness will spread through hearts around the world. Thanks for this lovely thought provoking post.


      • terpsichore says:

        and I forgot…my dancers also visit a few nursing homes and perform for them – we are not a professional dance company, just kids with a lot of heart who love to dance and share -and the smiles on the audience face makes me wish we had more time to visit many more… Hugs


  6. Ria says:

    Giving Tuesday – that is a caption to keep…

    Your comments above really touched me. I have a Living Will and I contribute to Covenant House. I give food donations both at church and in the groceries. Last year, my sister convinced me to carry a bag of food in the car to offer to the homeless on the road side, so I made bags of immediate edible food (i.e cheese & crackers, fruit cocktail, juice, Vienna sausage, etc) for all my kids to carry with them.

    I just visited InvisiblePeople.tv. It really brings the people into our lives and hearts. As one women said in the video – there are so many who have so much less. I will strive to see and not turn a blind eye to others in need, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel.

    Today, my family is preparing an intervention for one of my siblings. They are flying in from abroad and across the US. Mental abuse is so very hard to overcome. Thankfully, no children are involved. We have prepared a place for her (furnished with ongoing support). Our challenge is to make her believe how very loved she is and to support her in all her decisions now and in the future. She knows she is loved but does not believe she is worth it. Pray for us!!


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Yay for Covenant House and living wills!

      In hot climates, I have heard of people offering bottles of water (preferably frozen or at least chilled), and ready-to-eat food is a great idea.

      I’ve been a fan of Invisible People for years. Amazing stories and amazing work.

      Many prayers going your way. I will pray for your sister to be safe and that the transition will be secure, and that you will all have the wisdom to make the best decisions. I’ll also add your prayer request to a few groups I belong to.

      Please let us know, or by email if you need it to be private, how it goes. Hugs and prayers and light to you and yours.


    • Sherilyn says:

      Ria, by now, things have gone however they’ve gone for your family. I hope it was successful and your sibling is now in a safe place. You and yours are in my heart and prayers. Never give up; if it didn’t work today, well, tomorrow’s another day.


      • Ria says:

        Hi Sherilyn, Surprise of all surprises. It worked, :-). My siblings redecorated my daughter’s room and brought memories of our childhood together. The room is now like a warm blanket she can wrap herself in. We began moving her things in and will continue tomorrow. We were all prepared for failure because we have each individually tried many times to convince her to leave. We eventually decided on a group approach. I think the prayers and positive energy from across the globe got her to eventually realize that she is worth everything to us. Thank you for your thoughts.


        • catrouble says:

          Hey Ria…so happy to hear your intervention went well. Will continue sending prayers and healing energy that your sister can recover her self-esteem.



          • Ria says:

            Thank you Cat. You know, life is the greatest adventure. I only visited 1 blog and never thought I would be involved in an event like this. But miracles do happen and this is the best time of year for them. With my sister deciding to try for happiness, and the outpouring of love and support from this event, I think it is also time for a change in my life, :-).

            However, since I am perfect, was never sent to the corner, and switching is a very distant memory, life could not get better since I can walk on water :-0, I believe that there is no need for change in my life, 🙂

            The outpouring of support has made this marathon an achievable goal. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I sincerely wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and thousands of sales in the New Year.


            • Anastasia Vitsky says:

              “However, since I am perfect, was never sent to the corner, and switching is a very distant memory, life could not get better since I can walk on water :-0, I believe that there is no need for change in my life, :-)”

              LOL!! Too funny. I’m delighted you’re in good spirits after an emotional and difficult day yesterday. We’re all so happy for you and continue to send good thoughts for you and your family.


  7. chickie says:

    My daughter has been working her way through the Ramona series and loves reading them to me. Her little 6 year old voice and expressions are priceless! She finished Ramona and her Mother yesterday and will start her father today. Love these books!

    I am the coordinator at my church for a local food bank. We were assigned peanut butter and jelly lol. So basically I harass people to bring PB&J supplies. Then at some point each week I load up the baskets and deliver to the good bank. People can donate whatever they want but our focus is meeting the bank’s request.

    We also casually volunteer at the SPCA. My kids aren’t old enough nor do I have the time to commit to a schedule. About once a month when time allows we sit in a kitten room (oh the stench…) and help socialize them for more successful adoptions.

    Pets… Wow just finished reading those. Yeah, I can never look at “just an animal” the same way again.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I love when Ramona gets a haircut! Aww.

      LOL PB&J duty…well it is protein! I think focused requests can bring a better response than general calls, so good for you.

      Oh yes, SPCA and Humane Society. Good additions!

      Bebe is amazing. It’s one of those stories that changes your entire thinking.


  8. Michelle B says:

    Throughtout the day yesterday, Mistress Ana and I chatted about various charities and groups in need assistance – in fact most (if not all) of the Canadian organisations listed above were provide by me to Ana – thanks for passing it on, Mistress!

    I work with the Alzheimer Society of Canada and I can attest to the Safely Home program’s usefulness – it is heart-wrenching when a family members calls in to tell us their mother, father, grandparent, neighbour, or close friend went wandering overnight without any ID or proper clothing – often in their nightgown and slippers in the dead of winter… The Safely Home / Safe Return program may seem pricey but it is so worth it – and who can put a price on a person’s value?

    This morning a local radio station is doing a 13 Days of Christmas fundraising event for Abuse Awareness – this group works with families to break the cycle of abuse. For more info, check out their site at https://abusehurts.com/.

    There are so many great groups to support out there – I wish I had endless pockets so I could support everyone at any time of year!

    I do my best at random throughout the year but it’s never enough, is it? If I grab a lunch and can’t finish everything I bought, I wrap it up to go and offer the remaining food to a homeless person. If I “win” a no strings attached “free coffee” (or other) coupon (like during McDonald’s Monopoly campaign), I will also offer it to a homeless person. It’s not much but they ALWAYS smile and thank me. 🙂

    If it’s a hot summer day, buy some cheap popcycles and pass them on to those who work under the hot sun – sure they may be able to afford it, but they often don’t have the luxury to step away from their work to do so and they will thank you for it.

    Even just writing up friendly notes and leaving them on car windshields wishing the owner a happy day will certainly bring a smile to a person’s face – you never know what kind of day they had…

    So many “random acts of kindness” can be done at any time of year!



    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Oh these are all great ideas. Shame on me for not saying the Canadian sites were from you. Mistress Ana..LOL!

      I might swear at getting a paper on my windshield! Maybe better add a sticker or something so people know it’s not an ad or ticket. 😀


  9. Michelle B says:

    One more thing – please don’t forget the ones who cannot speak – our furry and feathered friends and companions – reading about the abuse pets receive at the hand of men and women makes my heart break… support your local SPCA or animal group – don’t buy from puppy mills (in fact, report them!) and if you can, adopt an older pet – they are often the most neglected because everyone wants the cute puppy or kitten instead of the already trained and mature cat or dog… 🙂


  10. Arleen says:

    I had already planned to spend part of my day today getting together items for Big Brothers & Big Sisters who take used items for families in need. So you picked the right day to make me think about giving to others. We also “adopt a child for Christmas” which means we provide all the presents and a stocking for that child because their family can’t afford to do so. As animal lovers we also always remember the animals at Christmas by sending special donations to SPCA and local animal groups. But I agree that although all these things are great we need to give and be thoughtful all the time. But I think as people it’s nice to be reminded to keep that thought present all the time so THANK YOU Ana for making us think about that today.

    I’m glad to hear that people are still reading Ramona stories!! They are so great!!

    Peace to All


  11. Michael says:

    Ana, what a lovely, heartfelt, wonderful post. You brought a lump to my throat and tears welled up in my eyes. I will definitely make it my mission to investigate the resources you listed and read the articles and books you mentioned.

    Season and I try to make a difference. We had heavy snow here yesterday and more due today into tomorrow so after work yesterday did some food shopping for our elderly next door neighbor.

    We contribute to our local food bank, and have been stuffing dollar bills in the red kettles of the Salvation Army the last couple of weeks.

    We do these things without a second thought and because it just seems like the right thing to do and should be so commonplace as to not even be a big deal.

    One other thing Season and I do which is dear to our hearts is donate blood every 56 days. My last donation in November marked 2 gallons I have contributed and the tiny little pin they gave felt like an Olympic Gold Medal. Season has been donating longer than me and is over the 3 gallon mark. We already have our next appointments scheduled for January. I hope people consider donating blood or plasma. It can literally be the gift of life.


  12. Natasha Knight says:

    You’re making me think and I like this post very much. I want to add a book first – The Velveteen Rabbit. I bought it for my daughter some years back but I think the story is more important to me than her – at least at this point in her life. I like the idea of being real – all worn out and real.

    On to giving. Since moving, we don’t give to charities like we used to. I think it’s just something that fell away when we were trying to get the rest of our lives sorted. We’re now relatively well sorted so time to get back into it. But you’re right, it doesn’t have to be about money and small things make a big difference.

    I have a good friend whom I’ve known longer than I’ve known my husband. She’s back in the US and some years ago, her marriage broke up and left her a single mom with 2 very young kids. She was probably – and is – the one truly poor person I know as far as dollars go. I think what’s interesting is that she is also probably the most generous person I know in every way. She absolutely saves me when I go to visit my parents – she will change her work schedule to have the days I’m there off and even come pick me up at the airport at whatever hour I get in. As I read this post, all I could think of was her. She loves baklava and my mom promised to make her some back in October when I was there. Sadly, my mom has not followed through so I’m going to order her a huge tray of it from an awesome middle easter bakery (shatila.com) and just have it on her doorstep. She can thank you when she can no longer button up her jeans… 🙂 I’ll just pass along your web address and personal info…!

    On another note, I think a lot of people are lonely and just want some contact. I think a lot of people are sad and afraid. Touch is missing in our day to day interactions. And I do think it makes a giant difference – more than money – when you smile at a stranger even if you don’t get that smile back (or they look at you like you’re crazy…). I do that anyway but do at times get caught up in ‘why don’t they smile back?’ Well, they don’t. Move on and keep smiling and don’t take it personally when they don’t 🙂

    One last thing – another book! The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Four simple agreements you make with yourself that really can change your life. I have to re-read…

    Happy Giving Tuesday.



    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Love this. So many good suggestions and so many good points.

      I absolutely agree. The people most generous in my life have been the ones with the least. People with two shirts who offer you the one they’re not wearing.

      We should put together all these book suggestions!


  13. Julie says:

    RAINN is a wonderful suggestion, Ana, and contributions of any kind – money, goods, AND time – to food banks and shelters as others have mentioned.

    And I encourage everyone to do whatever they can during the holiday season to help kids who need it. You really can make a difference.


  14. Mona Lisa says:

    Fantastic idea, Ana.
    But this makes me even sad. What a world we live in?
    Thankfully I live in the country, where poverty is not so noticeable, where very little is dictated by your parents wallet, where everyone has the chance to succeed, where all schools are free, where healthcare is free and all children get food free in schools .
    I support the two organizations. One is called ‘Facing the world’ and the other is an amateur driven theater in the UK.
    I and other women, we are a group, is funding their Christmas production of children. Kids get to go free to the theater, see this Christmas piece. These are children from sociallt difficult environment .. I’ll make small pearly angels That I sell for the benefit of These two important associations.
    Today I will think more about all my fellow .Aan extra hug to my kids and Leo, an extra smile to passing man, an extra smile to the driver of the car, that gives me priority and so on.


  15. Marybeth says:

    Adopting from a shelter is a great idea. We have 4 dogs and they are all rescues. One caveat though, some shelters make it extremely difficult to adopt. They have unrealistic expectations that there is always someone in the home.

    We donate to the local food drives. Our schools participate and the teachers or administrators promise something for the kids if the goal is met, such as a principal getting his haircut in a Mohawk and then dyeing the hair pink. There were a lot of donations!

    We also donate blood as our family is O-, a needed blood type. As our kids become old enough to donate, we encourage them as well.

    Great post Ana, very thought provoking.


  16. Terry says:

    Giving Tuesday is a great idea that does need to be practiced all year round. There are many people who need a helping hand and many worthy charities out there who are doing so much good.

    This year, instead of exchanging gifts between my family and the family of one of my very best friends, we decided to participate in the “Adopt a Family” program run by Volunteers of America. Our family is a single Mom with 4 kids who is working but struggling to pay her bills. We were given a wish list for the family with clothes sizes and information about each family member. As a group activity, we went shopping for the family and my friend’s daughters wrapped all the gifts. We also gave the family a gift card to a local grocery store to buy their Christmas dinner. We got to meet our family when we dropped off the gifts to put under their tree last week. We plan to drop off cookies and other Christmas goodies for the family when it gets closer to Christmas. I give to many charities but this is the first time I could see first hand someone I helped.

    I also like to help out our local Humane Society, the Salvation Army and Food Bank because they do so much good in the community.

    This is a wonderful topic for the Holiday Season to talk about. Thank you Ana


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      What a great idea! I don’t think most of us need gifts for each other, the way we give them. Yes it’s our money and we can spend it the way we want, but I think there are sometimes better ways to use the money. Good for you.


  17. octoberwoman says:

    My doctor’s office keeps giving me paperwork for a living will, and while I always have good intentions I come home and set it aside and then don’t think about it again. I have an appointment Monday, and the papers are sitting here in a cubby on my desk. I’m going to fill them and put them in my purse so I have them with me Monday.

    Here in the US, the Salvation Army has an Angel Tree Program, to collect presents for children who might otherwise not get any, especially children. Christmas trees are set up at local businesses with paper Angel tags on them, and you just pick a tag, or more than one tag off the tree. It will list who you are shopping for – male or female, age, and items that they would like. Then you buy the gifts and leave them at a drop off site. My children have always enjoyed picking a tag and choosing presents. Here’s a link – http://blog.salvationarmyusa.org/2013/11/07/angel-giving-tree-heres-how-to-give-and-receive/.


  18. Joelle Casteel says:

    thanks for the theme today, Ana. I was still thinking on what to do for day 3 of Chalica (about acceptance of others and encouragement of others’ spritiual search). I found “Luna” available for request in my library system so hopefully it’ll be on its way soon. I do love the “Giving Tuesday,” even though my family was unable to take part this year. Such a wonderful list of things you had to suggest- wonderful that people gave you suggestions of things to add. Of course, on making a difference, I’m hoping once my Master gets back from a possible job orientation thing that we’ll go to Goodwill and empty all the donations I’ve been collecting in my car into one of their baskets 🙂 oh we have so much stuff I’ve meant to donate


  19. abby says:

    Ana…a wonderful post and list. I have decided one of my New Year’s resolution is to look into each one and learn more about the ones that are new to me. I went to McD’s drive through for break fast this morning….a treat for me…a rare on…and as i often do, I offered to pay for the person behind me…..and told the girl to wish them a good day. I love the variety on your list. I bleieve tha random acts of kindness should be a motto in all of you schools….it is not hard to make a difference….and it can mean the world so someone. Thanks for posting this…
    I am sending lots of prayers your way.
    hugs abby


  20. quiet sara says:

    Ana what a wonderful post which causes one to look inside and really think about how
    we can help others. I am already an organ donor and we have donated to the Animal Shelter as well as fostered. I have given to Operation Christmas Child and we have also
    helped an elderly family in need but there is always more to do. Thank you so much for this
    wonderful list.



  21. thelongbean says:

    Wow- What a wide range of things suggested and all eminently sensible. I am a great believer in giving back to the community in which I live. I do (and have done) support local good causes where I can, even it is not direct cash donations:-

    Some of our local shops have a box/basket for people to purchase an extra item and put in there for distribution to the poor and needy. For instance a tin of tomatoes (cost €0.50) is always welcome as it will help make a pasta dish that is nutritious and filling. I have done just that earlier before I read your article.
    Further, the culture here is that no-one should ever be without food and it is very common to see dishes of food being passed around to help feed the needy. We have had a problem with undocumented migrants being dumped here by people traffickers.The are quickly rounded up and the local population makes sure that there is some food and clean clothing available for them.
    Before I emigrated form the UK I used to raise money for a local charity called The Willow Trust. It runs two specially built canal boats enabling people of all ages and disabilities to have a day out on the local canal.

    From recent family emergency, I now know the importance of a living will, and have made sure that there is one in place.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      There’s a wonderful program somewhere where people can pay for an extra cup of coffee to be given to the next person who needs it. Italy, maybe? Such a small gesture and can help so much. Willow Trust is new to me but sounds wonderful.


  22. Renee Meyer says:

    Ana, wow what a wake-up call your blog is this morning. Having 2 special needs children has led our family to reach out to those who are physically and mentally challenged. Those with special needs are often overlooked or seen as too much trouble to help. As a family we will provide Christmas dinner and presents for a local family with those needs in their family. Visiting nursing homes is another way to reach those often forgotten. We can’t forget our military men and women injured in the line of duty. Transitioning back into civilian life after serving and being injured can be difficult and lonely for many of them. The biggest problem is that many people consider these things during the holidays but we need to remember all year. Volunteering at nursing homes has taught our family to save our giving until other times during the year when few are thinking beyond their own problems or life. Thanks for the reminder. Have a great day!!


  23. Leigh Smith (aka Sunny Girl) says:

    I agree with the giving all year long, not just at Christmas. When I was a Rotarian, I rang the bell for The Salvation Army and was amazed at how many not only just pass by but don’t even look at the “ringer”., it’s as if you were invisible.

    I am already an organ donor, give blood regularly, participate in food and clothing drives, contribute to many charitable causes both in time and money. I believe in paying it forward every single day whether it be with a smile, a hand up, a dollar or a kindness to a stranger. If we would just treat everyone the way we wish to be treated we would all live in a much nicer world.

    Thanks Ana for reminding us we can all do better.


  24. Tracey Horton says:

    As I stated on Day 1, I grew up poor until I was 10 and my father came to adopt me and marry my mom as an answer to my prayers for a daddy. There were many nights we went to bed hungry with no lights and heat from a hot plate. We had a Santa show up at our house when I was 6 with presents and food on Christmas Eve. To the day my mom died she never knew who it was.

    I helped open a food shelf in my town 14 years ago. I was a phone verifier for two years 24/7. It was very rewarding and brought things full circle. And every Christmas we would surprise families. One year a 12 year old boy was home on Christmas Eve day. No tree no presents. He cried and said “I prayed that God would let us have a Christmas and then you knocked on the door. We had the car full of foid and presents.

    Contact your local schools. The school nurse knows the families in need. They will tell you ages and if it is a boy or girl. They will do it anonymously. Every year we “adopt” a family. Sometimes I don’t even have to ask it just falls in my lap.

    This year my daughter is student teaching at a school for special needs and we are adopting a family there.

    Also during summer vacation remember the hungry. A lot of kids get free breakfast and lunch at school. When summer comes they are at home and they don’t have the food. Your local food shelf needs spaghetti O’s, peanut butter, jelly, Mac and cheese. Stuff like that. We would make up baskets for summer for all the families that got free lunch.

    Think you for doing this. It made me cry. It is amazing the community that you have started Blessings to all of you.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Really, will a school let you know of a child who could use some help? I had no idea! I thought they’d be wary of outsiders, etc., but maybe since it is anonymous…that is a brilliant idea. Even just when you go grocery shopping, to buy an extra can of Chef Boyardee ravioli costs so little. I am bad about using up canned/boxed food because I forget “non-perishable” doesn’t mean “never expires,” and I often find six packages of pasta the month before they expire. I should find my local food pantry for those kinds of donations.

      The thought of a child going to bed hungry infuriates me. With people spending millions of dollars on weight loss gimmicks, why is any child going to bed without enough food? People say they are in tears reading the post today, but hearing your story makes me angry instead of sad. What can we do to make this world a more just place?

      Thank you for all that you do and for your passion to “come full circle,” as you say. You will be a better and more compassionate steward than someone who has never known hunger. Empathy vs. sympathy.


      • Tracey Horton says:

        Yes, schools will tell you. They won’t give names. But they will say i.e. Family of four, two kids 6 and 8 both girls. Anyone kind enough to show up at a school and ask to help a family? Absolutely they will give you a family. In most school there are kids at the poverty level at the rate of 30%. It’s much higher in the city schools.

        Don’t forget the moms and dads too. One year I got myself some pretty nice perfume and felt I needed to add it to the basket for the mom. She said she has cried the night before and thought I would love some perfume. You never know. Listen to that little voice


  25. JoanneBest says:

    So many wonderful ideas here Ana, thank you for reminding us to remember those less fortunate than us, we are all fortunate here just for the fact that we are all able to have a computer to come here in the first place. (that made more sense in my head :-D)
    I have a living will, I’ve read Ramona (squee! love those books!) and another book that comes to mind is A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith; about a young girl and her family struggling to get by as the young girl dreams of becoming a writer some day. I’ve read that book more times than I can count, and the original black and white film never fails to bring tears to my eyes (the scene where Francie and her brother Neeley try to win a leftover Christmas tree kills me every time), don’t want to leave any spoilers but I highly recommend at least watching the movie- instant tears ❤

    Alzheimer's is something I'm far too familiar with, my Mother-in-law, who has always disliked me (it wasn't personal, it would be the same for any woman her son married) began to show signs of Alzheimer's and it took me a few years to get thru to the family, by the time we all managed to get her to a doctor she was near severe and needed 24 hour care but we didn't want to put her in a home so I stepped up to the plate, turned down a job offer at the Post Office and became her caretaker. It didn't matter how badly she had treated me before, I did what had to be done, spoon feeding her, bathing her, etc and made some calls so hospice and Visiting Angels sent a nurse every day until she passed away… now I see my Dad going down the same road so I've been working with his doctor, keeping an eye on him and will move back home if/when the time comes.

    Another thing I'm involved with is a yearly Christmas benefit where all of us locals who are in bands play a night at a local club and every penny raised is handed over that very night to one local family affected by cancer. For some reason, when my band is on, my voice is always just the way I want it to be, and for just a few songs worth of time I feel like all those we've lost are there watching, like Angels.

    On the flip side, when Hurricane Irene knocked down my Parent's home they moved in with us until we found a small apartment for them thru the church my Mom belonged to, and our amazing neighbors, the whole town really, held a benefit for my family (the insurance company wouldn't pay anything) same place we hold the Christmas benefit with all local musicians, including Dave Snake Sabo from Skid Row (my neighbor and friend) and raised some money to help out because the entire house had to be rebuilt; Home Depot wound up saving us by donating nearly everything we lost (all appliances, repainting everything, planting flowers and trees, etc) and local contractors helped us out by rebuilding from the ground up and all we had to pay for was the supplies.
    I guess my point is that old saying "what comes around goes around" really is true, and people are inherently good. I never fail to donate to any causes having to do with Veterans and cancer (my Mom had breast cancer). I really believe that when you put goodness out there you get goodness back.

    Oh and Ana, when I decorate my tree I will be sure to take a picture of the pickle ornament but I can't tell you where it's hidden, that would be cheating ;-D
    And once again, I have a huge smile on my face now, all thanks to you and everyone else here {waves hard and blows kisses 'round the world}, you have all made a difference in my life 🙂 xox


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I’m looking forward to the pickle ornament picture. 😀

      Wow, so much information here..this is all great. You’ve gotten involved in many ways and really made a difference! I am sure that is why you are experiencing a better December than you expected, not just because of us. But thank you for sharing how this has made a difference for you. 🙂


  26. Celeste Jones says:

    Ana, what a timely and important post. I have spent the morning spinning in circles with all the stuff I need to do and when it comes right down to it, none of it is really that important compared to the significant needs of so many other people.

    As you know, I am a compulsive knitter and I donate a ton of hats, scarves and slippers to the homeless. Here are a couple suggestions (in case there aren’t enough already)

    1. If you know someone who knits or crochets for the needy, give them a gift card to a store like Hobby Lobby, Michaels or even Walmart so they can buy yarn.
    2. I usually send mine to a woman about 100 miles away because they distribute and collect year round. Postage can be prohibitive. Offer to mail a box for someone.
    3. Cold feet are the worst. Cotton socks, especially in men’s sizes are always needed. If you get (like I do) $10 off an in-store purchase gift cards from retailers…use those to buy a packet or two of socks and donate them.


    • Ria says:

      Celeste, I like the additional ideas. We have so much to offer. I am originally from a 3rd world country but my entire family migrated years ago. Though there is a lot of homeless back home, we are fortunate that we do not have to deal with the winter – feeling cold, unwanted, and unloved. I have so many blessings, including this event. I am going to reach out a helping hand to share my many blessings. Since today (well yesterday actually, :-0 ) was so successful, it is time for me to spread some of my happiness around. The different options are so mindboggling. I cannot knit much (scarves are it, 🙂 ), but donating a package of socks is a brilliant idea.


  27. angieia says:

    I agree that Giving Tuesday should be done more than once a year. In our town the local police department does shop with a cop. They take underpriviledged children shopping with donations made by the community. It helps the kids realize that they can trust the police instead of fear them and the kids have a great time shopping for Christmas presents. We also donate to the local food drives.

    On Thanksgiving our local hockey has a Teddy Bear Toss. The first goal of the game that we score everyone throws new stuffed animals on the ice and the boys deliver children in the hospitals that are unable to come home for the holidays. Our local hockey team gives back to the community all year long.

    Thanks Ana for a great post and Michelle for the web site!


  28. Kelsey Summer says:

    Great post and great ideas from everyone. I’ve read everyone’s suggestions. While this is supposed to be a happy time of year, for those struggling it’s really hard. I’ve been involved in Mother’s groups, PTOs, church groups, girl scouts, boy scouts, and other organizations, and it astounds me the number of people who come forward this time of year looking for help. I’ve had several women break down in tears to me because they don’t know how they can pay for food, cloth their kids, and still have Santa come for their youngest. Asking for help is tough?

    I have one friend who last year wrapped up old things around the house for her 8 year old and 10 year old so that she could still buy a few new things and pretend that Santa was coming for her 3 year old. She didn’t want to ask for help and wouldn’t accept any.

    In addition to schools many fire stations will have lists of families looking for help. If you ask they’ll give you the ages and the gifts most needed/wanted.

    Another suggestions for those who don’t want to contribute more, but can’t is to donate cans or bottles (in those places that recycle). Take the cans and bottles to a grocery store, redeem the cash, and donate it. I do this every time I recycle my cans and bottles.


  29. Maren Smith says:

    My family has two traditions at this time of year. The first is this: Neither my sisters nor I have kids, so our celebration of Christmas has always been minus the gifts and focused on family. We get together for an evening, we have a nice dinner, watch a movie and read two stories, the same two stories we’ve always read since we were born: The Night Before Christmas and two passages out of the Bible regarding the birth of Christ.

    Our second is this: We find a Salvation Army Angel Tree and we pick three names: one senior, one disabled and one child. When we fill out our angels’ wishes, we don’t pick one or two items, we give them everything they ask for plus a few extras meant for their care-providers or the rest of the family so no one gets left out. This is a family project that we have done since we were teens. I’ll go fifty miles for an angel tree, if I can’t find one locally, because every child should have a Christmas and no senior or mentally/physically disabled person should feel forgotten.

    This year, we also donated to military service dogs (and their handlers) overseas.


  30. Ruth Staunton says:

    When I was teaching, my school always provided “Christmas” for several of our students and their families, all from donations made by staff members. This year, I’m helping one of my caregivers who has fallen on hard times. She lost her second job and her husband lost his job. My mom and I are buying her family’s gifts/food, etc.

    Also, I sponsor a child through The Philip Hayden foundation. http://www.chinaorphans.org/ In China, due to social policies and poverty, children with disabilities and medical needs are often abandoned to orphanages and state institutions where they are warehoused with minimal care and little or no education, typically totally isolated from “normal” people. This organization fosters special needs kids from state care, gives them medical care, therapy, and education, and tries to get them adopted. They are also trying to offer vocational training for adolescents so that when they age out, they have a means to support themselves.

    It is a Christian organization. I say this out of respect for the various belief systems we have around here as their website and materials are heavy on Biblical scripture. Forewarned is forearmed and all that jazz.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      It is really scary this year the number of people I know who have lost a job or whose partner has lost a job. Tough, frightening, and nerve-wracking. I wish we could have meaningful employment for everyone.


  31. TravelingGal says:

    What a thought-provoking post. I admit that I tend to be compassionate in “easy” ways, like giving money. Habitat for Humanity is one of my favorite charities. But your post did make me realize that I should be more hands-on with noticing and helping those less fortunate. We do have living wills and we did adopt an abandoned older dog, who is absolutely wonderful.

    With regard to children’s books with a wonderful message, The Giving Tree is one of my favorites. And I still love How the Grinch Stole Christmas – the book and the cartoon, NOT the Jim Carrey travesty.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      We all give in the way we can. Some people have money but not time, and some people have time but not money. We need all kinds.

      It’s not PC, but I don’t like The Giving Tree. I hate a tree letting herself get cut down to a stump for a boy who doesn’t appreciate her for most of his life. 😦 However, the Grinch is perfect.


  32. robskatie says:

    This is such a neat post, Ana! 🙂 Funny but my two of my favorite sites are KarmaTube and DailyGood. Both are all about making a difference, something that Rob and I have always emphasized to our kids, and tried to teach by example. You can sign up for a daily email from dailygood.org. This morning, before logging into Blogland I got my daily DailyGood. It was all about this same kind of thing. Examples of kindness to others. I had recently come across the your #12 here- random acts of kindness for kids, and printed it up and put it up in our kitchen, it is something that we will talk with our kids about. But it is true- adults can do the same kinds of things for sure. So anyway, this morning’s DailyGood was inspirational enough for me to share with others, and I will do it here as well. Tons of ideas and examples.


    I also believe in helping out year round and not just during the holiday season. 🙂 A cool thing that I have done is to go to this site and order (or you can print) their smile cards. The cards are cute and they are free. The idea is to do a random act of kindness and leave a card, which tags the person and suggests that they do the same with a card and pass it on. I’ve gone through toll booths, for example, paid the next guys toll and left a card with the toll booth attendant for him or her to pass on. You can do whatever works for you- that is just one example. You can see and get involved here:


    I love all of the ideas that you have listed, Ana. I will go through and check them all out. 🙂 Oh and I LOVED all of the Ramona books growing up. I used to enjoy a tv show that they had of the same years ago.

    We do a bunch of stuff around here. Many donations to Big Brother, Big Sister, and other places like that. In the past we have picked a family from the tree at church and gotten some things that they have wished for and wrapped them up. In the last handful of years, (and in fact I just this morning reached out to the friend who organizes this, strangely enough, timing wise) I have a friend who has a family that she knows is in need. Every year she puts together a Christmas for them, and quietly goes and leaves it on their porch. She has never revealed that it is her doing it. I have helped her do this for many years. I emailed her earlier this morning to see what specific things (like grocery store gift card, etc) she still needs. It always feels good to know that you have brought joy to others. 🙂

    Lastly I am always focused on the great many people who are in hospitals with no one. I have plans to start some kind of something that can focus on this great problem in the coming year. I know the difference that it can make. I need to just wait until we are situated a bit. But that has been on my mind quite a lot lately. Thanks so much, Ana! These are wonderful things to explore and do as well. Many hugs,

    ❤ Katie


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Smile cards, what a great idea! Your friend has such a neat idea, and how special that you make it happen.

      I wish we could do something for people alone in the hospital, but it seems as if it’s become extraordinarily difficult to become a volunteer and interact with patients at a hospital.

      Hugs back and thank you for all you do.


  33. Clara Baker says:

    Ana, this has to be your best day on the Advent calendar! I think we should come back to this one repeatedly throughout the year. My favorite place to donate time and financial support is a local home for women in our area. My daughter has used the program. My hope is that she will find the strength to go back into the program again. This program houses women and their children for an extended period of time. They provide ongoing counseling, life skills training and onsite child care. The women are expected to be enrolled in school, working at least part time and involved in some kind of community service. When she first enrolled I thought they were crazy. I couldn’t imagine how she could spread herself so thin and survive. It was really amazing to see women in the program rising to all these challenges.. The staff are very committed to holding these women to high standards.Their belief is that this IS where you are and what they are asking is doable. They always have volunteer opportunities in childcare and their annual fundraiser. Although my daughter made the heartbreaking decision to leave the program and go back into a bad situation my hope is that she will find the strength to make real and lasting changes the next time.

    My prayers to to you and your family for your intervention. I hope this is the time for your sister! Clara


  34. virgnelson says:

    I try to remind the kids, and myself, to really SEE everyone around us. A lot of times, people just want someone to listen to them. So, when someone looks like they’re having a rough day or whatever–even strangers–I try to be an ear. A lot of times, just telling someone what is wrong helps so very much, especially when you see they get it and they care.

    I also make a point to shake the hands of vets when I cross their path, shake their hand, say thank you and happy holidays. There’s a 90something year old one at the local grocer and I did that yesterday and he teared up and hugged me. It meant something to him, which is just awesome.

    There are charities around my area, like HALO, which adopt needy families for the holidays, providing food and small gifts to children who might not get anything otherwise. I know quite a few folks who support them and I try to get the word out when I can about them and other places.

    Then again, my adopted mom is a fantastic mentor for me…she volunteers for the Red Cross, serves meals a couple times a month to the elderly at a local church (she’s not a member, just goes and helps), makes quilts at another church that get shipped over seas to the needy (I think that they managed almost 300 this year) and otherwise just gives of herself in so many ways. People like that? They’re my heroes.

    Even the little things matter…they can change someone’s whole life and you might not even realize it when you do it.

    Thanks so much for this post and this day, Ana. Just a wonderful thing you’re doing here.


  35. Holla Dean says:

    I am simply floored by the comments here! There is so much love and such a giving spirit in this community. Ana, the list in your post is wonderful. If anyone doesn’t know how or where to give, that list is a great start. In fact, it would be hard to choose just one.
    For myself, I have a son who is schizophrenic and/or bi-polar (I swear sometimes I think shrinks don’t know any more than we lay people do) and I am involved with an organization in my city that is a wonderful residential care facility for people with mental illness. They help them learn to live on their own and find jobs that aren’t overly stressful. Stress is a huge factor in keeping the mentally ill on an even keel. I give what I can to that facility. My son lives on his own now, but I have such appreciation for that care facility that I want to continue to help. They have only a dozen or so residents and once a year I buy enough tickets to a baseball game so all can go along with a couple of staff members. Unfortunately, when I buy that many tickets I can only afford the nosebleed section.
    I am a believer in ‘charity begins at home.’ We all have at least one family member who is either having a rough time financially or in other personal ways. Help them out. They may not want to accept monetary help, but take them out for lunch or bring them a home-cooked meal, offer to babysit for a single mom so she can have a little alone time.
    Just look around, there are people everywhere who need something, even it’s just a smile to brighten their day.
    I helped a man at Costco last Sunday. He was in a wheel chair, struggling to reach in the refrigerator section for a gallon of milk and I can’t tell you how many people walked past him. Some of them glanced at him and saw his struggle, but just kept moving along. I pulled the gallon of milk out for him, gave him a smile, and asked if he needed help with getting anything else. He was so thankful, and that little act of kindness made me feel good for the rest of the day.
    Be kind and helpful all year long, not just at Christmas.


  36. Thianna D says:

    Yesterday was a wonderful day on Facebook, wasn’t it? One you might not have seen is the wonderful SMYRC of Portland, Oregon http://www.pdxqcenter.org/programs/youth-programs/smyrc/

    One of my favorite charities to donate to is http://www.heifer.org . The money you donate purchases e a goat, cow, water buffalo, etc and those animals are given to a needy family…but not as a gift. It is a hand up, rather than a hand out. The family that receives the animal agrees to donate an offspring to someone else in need. It’s the gift that literally keeps on giving. Some lines are at 22 generations. Now that’s the power of a hand-up. And they have now increased what they are doing to include women’s empowerment and the rebuilding of communities.

    I have to admit, the one thing I think is sad is that everyone focuses on giving during the holidays, but charities need even more help the rest of the year when people forget them or are not in as ‘giving’ of a mood. I’m probably the exact opposite and do conceivably less during the time from Turkey day to New Year because I know charities are getting bombarded and tend to focus on the other months.

    Here’s to giving more in 2014 🙂


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      It was. 🙂

      It’s true that outreach needs to happen all year instead of at Christmas, but some charities depend on Christmas to meet their budgets for the year. Yet if we can do other months, that can make a huge difference, too.


  37. JC says:

    This is a great day. We live in a nation where it seems at times that everyone has a “give me mentality.” I see it with the kids in my class, the adults that I am around and the ladies I have the privilege of having Bible studies with in the jail and prison.
    As a teacher I try to encourage my students to think of others but often forget to think of others myself. This is a great reminder to do something for someone today.
    I read the Random Acts of Kindness page and plan to written a letter to a friend that is serving as a missionary outside the US.


  38. 00sarah says:

    Wow! What a fabulous list you made! I want to help and donate to all of them! He-Man and I participate and a variety of charities and service though out the year. We encourage our kids to do the same.
    Years ago, when I was 8 or 10, my mom and I were shopping at a Wal-Mart or something equivalent. When we got up to pay, my mom asked the cashier to put back the pants and top she was going to buy. Then she took that money and gave it to the Marine who was collecting money for Toys For Tots.
    When I asked her why she did that when she needed those clothes for work. (She really did need them.) She explained to me that she would get paid in 2 weeks and would be able to buy them then. The people who would be receiving the items that money would help purchase would likely not be having a pay day anytime soon.
    I’ve never forgotten that, in all these years.

    This year, like almost every year in the past, we will take our kids shopping. They’ll pick out something they want, toy, game, clothes. This year we will have them pay for a portion of it and then we will take them to a Toys For Tots (or Salvation Army type of place) and have them physically donate their item.
    It’s always a humbling experience.
    I’m always grateful for donations, no matter how small, that people give to those less fortunate. I would love nothing more than for it to happen all year round as it does in December. 🙂


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      There are 20 items in the list and 48 weeks of the year besides December. Why not pick one per week? 🙂

      I like what your mom did, and I agree we should think about year round. I am glad your kids will get to learn how to make a difference.


  39. Kathryn R. Blake says:

    So many wonderful giving ideas. The company I worked for has a drive to donate non-perishable canned goods to the food pantry that developed into a department challenge to see whose donation weighed the most. We used to participate in that every year, but since I left we stopped. I need to see how we can participate as individuals.

    We donate money to the PetSmart Charities every year. They do an excellent job of relocating animals in man-made as well as natural disaster areas. Their Emergency Relief program has saved more than 110,000 lives in the past 6 years by delivering food and supplies to animal rescue groups. Their Rescue Waggin’ program also saves thousands of pets every year by relocating homeless animals from shelters in overpopulated communities to adoption centers in areas where dogs and puppies are in high demand. Though their site doesn’t claim it, I believe they do their best to rescue the animals in kill shelters first.

    If you’re interested, they have more information at their site: http://www.petsmartcharities.org/what-we-do/saving-lives

    I’m a sucker for furry, four-legged children. Since we are currently without any of our own, I try to do what I can to support those in need of help.

    Walmart, not one of my favorite stores, has a Layaway Angel program where you can donate money to help a family get the toys and gifts they wanted for Christmas. I believe K-Mart and Toys ‘R Us have similar programs. K-Mart may have actually been the first to initiate the program, but I heard about Walmart’s initiative first.

    USA Today did an article on it last year as did HLN. This is the link to HLN’s article, but basically you go to the neighborhood store in question and inquire if they have a Layaway Angel Program and give what you can to help a less-fortunate family celebrate the holiday.


    So, I try to focus my attention on kids, animals and families in need, and thank you for the reminder that Christmas isn’t just about bright lights, pretty ornaments and fancy trees. It’s about opening your heart and extending a helping hand.


  40. PT Wyant says:

    How about something that seems so simple we overlook it? Stop tolerating. Are people making fun of someone else when that person isn’t there? Speak up. Take a stand. Don’t be a part of it (and not speaking up is being a part of it). (Afraid you’ll lose friends? Ask yourself if you want to be friends with people like that anyhow — what could they be saying about you behind your back?) (I’ve done this. They probably still talked about the woman in question but they didn’t do it in front of me.)

    And it’s probably a little late for things to arrive this year, but let’s not forget the armed forces. Check out http://anysoldier.com/index.cfm (They have contacts for all branches.) (Plus, they get lonely all year.)

    Other ideas for keeping it going year-round:

    I have been paring down my books because I’m out of room on my shelves. Some special interest ones (Pagan) go to the monthly barter night at the Pagan group I go to and by now everyone knows that I don’t want anything in exchange for them — they are “Free to a good home, a bad home, any home but my home.” Other books are donated to the local library for their book sales. (Speaking of which, I have two boxes of books that need to be dropped off when I head out later today.)

    I’ve also been weeding out my wardrobe of clothes that don’t fit or that I don’t need anymore and they’ve gone to Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul’s. However, the domestic violence shelter (HAVIN) has recently opened a thrift shop so donations are going to be taken there as well. Some of the things they sell and others go directly to the families that they shelter, as they often leave with nothing more than the clothes they are wearing. (I used to volunteer at the shelter but had to give it up when my life got complicated.)

    (Those are win-win situations — they cost me nothing but a little time, I get more space, and other people can get things they want or need.)

    Money is always extra tight this time of year so I’m going to get a Wal Mart gift card and add 10 or 20 dollars a month to it all year and then use it next year as a donation, either to HAVIN or Orphans of the Storm (animal shelter).

    If you’re capable of making a time commitment, check with your local domestic violence shelter or a suicide hotline — this is a bad time of year for a lot of people. (It might be too late to do volunteer work there for this year — I know at HAVIN there was a lengthy training course, plus clearances and background checks — but they need people all year.)

    And libraries can always use volunteers, and volunteering there doesn’t just mean putting books back on shelves — ask them what they need people to do. (Or suggest something of your own — facilitate a teen writing group, for example.)

    Blessings to everyone who is helping in whatever way is possible.


  41. SH says:

    What a great post today Ana! We do little things year round, buy the meal for the military group that are eating where we are, buy food in the drive thru for the person I notice as I am pulling in to buy food for my family, donate money/food at church, donate money to the homeless shelter supported by a church in our area but I think the one thing that sticks out in my mind the most happened a couple of years ago. When my son was still in the Air Force and stationed overseas, and actually deployed to Iraq at the time, I was pulling together a care package to send to him (which I actually did weekly the entire time he was deployed) including extras for his friends when my co-workers in my office started collecting money. I had no idea they were doing that but they collected enough for me to send several care packages with individual goodie bags for each Airman in his squadron! That was a blast!! He is out now but I think I should do this again for his friends that are still in. Yep, I am definitely going to do this again! 🙂


  42. Katy Beth McKee says:

    A favorite book that always made an impression on me when my mom read it every year and I read it to my children is the Bird’s Christmas Carol. A rich but dying young girl literally gives her last breathe to make a wonderful Christmas to a poor family. The story is full of tears and joys. But two impression that as an adult stand out to me is the rich father saying that his money meant nothing to him if giving it up work make his daughter well. The oldest sister of the poor family who went to the doctor upset that her and her siblings caused the girl to die faster and the kindness the doctor showed when he answered her. And what struck out to me even as a child was that comment the girl’s family made to continue to do all they could to support this family in the future. Wow I can’t even get through the telling of this little bit without crying.

    Secondly, we have always made service to others a priority for our children. They do a lot of volunteer work through our local Camp Fire. The week of Thanksgiving my youngest snapped beans, planted vegetables, spent the day in a soup kitchen, and helped deliver Thanksgiving dinner to the elderly. I am so proud of the service my children have participated in over the years. My one that when to public high school who graduated last June had the highest voluntary community service hours ever for his school. They started a new award to honor high achievers in community service. He set a high mark and he said he can’t wait to find out someone beat him because it meant they were out there making a difference too.

    And a few years ago we were on the receiving end of someone’s kindness. Not only were all the children included but there was a gift certificate for Books A Million for mom and Home Depot for dad. A few times in recent years we have come home to find a the makings of a holiday meal on our doorstep. And I have found that sometimes receiving is harder than giving. Not because we were ashamed but just because you feel there has to be so many more worse off than you. But a good friend told me something that really stuck with me. Sometimes you have to accept the giving because you are blessing the other person. Don’t take away their gift of giving by not wanting to receive.


  43. angel says:

    Every year I have the kids go throw there stuff and Then I have them re go throw it and throw away the junk then take the nice stuff ( we save the boxs the toys came in so we can rebox them) Then the special dresses/suites they wear that year are put in gift boxs and we find familys to give them to It is given to the parents when the kids are not home As a family last year ( not the young ones ) we packed up bags of new unopen gifts for some familys and had them meet to pick up the items This was done two days before christmas because we found out that there where familys that could not get help from place like toys for tots ect because they did not get foodstamps or other assisants There are so many familys around us that make just enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table they are making it but there is nothing extra and they do not quilify for any help so there is not anything left for those special days or gifts My heart leads me to help those who are making it but don’t have the extra funds to give presents or gifts to their familys. Last year a friend of ours that manages a thirft store Got as many unopen toys as he could he then sold them at the thirft store for 85/90% off what they cost so that families that would not take anything free but could not afford alot where able to buy brand new toys for their children It was a 1st and it was awesome I heard so many moms and dads saying “this is so great such nice gifts that I am able to buy my child/children” It might sound weird but it is so awesome to be able to give a hand up and she the JOY on the parents faces as they get their kids the gifts they asked for that the parent was sure they couldn’t get that year I truelly hope that it happens again this year and many more years to come


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Kids don’t need nearly as much “stuff” as we give them, really. You’re right about families having very little but still not qualifying for help.

      That is a great idea about the toys! Actually I don’t see why we don’t reuse more toys rather than always buying new.


  44. LA Cloutier says:

    The story about the grown woman and her Thanksgiving story touched me deeply. I’m still wiping my eyes. The man who gave and made a difference is what humanity and life is all about. I truly hope he knows what a difference he made in the lives of the family he donated to. I am a firm believer that giving is more important than receiving. The joy it brings is always 10fold. Sometimes in ways we don’t even know.
    ~scurries off in search of a tissue~ Thanks so much for sharing this touching and inspiring story Ana!


  45. Leslie says:

    Every Christmas Eve my family plays dirty santa. For those of you that do not know the game ,it all boils down to everyone buying a $25.00 gift. We then play a trading game with them. Always fun for the whole family. I just now finished calling them and all agreed to use this money to sponsor a family in need this year instead. I really look forward to see how this will enrich our lives.


  46. Blondie says:

    Ana, this is a wonderful, kind and caring idea. I did not know about this Tuesday. And you came up with some wonderful ideas. I like quite a few of them and may need to put some of them into action. Through our church, we work with World Vision, we adopt a child and we raise money to help those families get fresh water. Every Christmas, we pick a name from our church’s Giving tree and buy presents for the child who’s name we picked. My brother, sisters, parents and myself adopt a family at Christmas, In stead of buying gifts for each other, we are able to purchase Christmas dinner, a decorated tree, warm clothes and Christmas presents. Because those are things we already do every year, I am going to take one of your suggestions. Definitely read and check out the sites you suggested. Thank you for making me aware of this day.


  47. Irishey says:

    This is a lovely post, Ana, with wonderful comments. It’s strange, and awesome, how so many of us contribute in so many ways throughout the year. I used to contribute in many ways to multiple charities, churches, causes and fund raisers, but can’t give as much or as freely of my time and money as I once did. I feel badly about not doing/being able to do nearly as much without even thinking about it, but this post reminded me of all the things we still do throughout the year to help others.

    Today, I exchanged emails with someone who has the potential to become a very good friend. I picked on one of Ana’s blogger friends on another post… okay, maybe not exactly what we’re talking about here. 😉

    When the kids get home from school today, I’m going to have them start putting things in our donation box for the Salvation Army. I’m also going to fire up the laptop so I can check out the few sites listed here that I am not familiar with.

    The rest of this month, we will continue our contributions to the SA bell ringers, local food donations, Wounded Veterans and Angel Tree gifts. Active duty military units also have people with no families to send them cards and gifts, so I hope to do that again this year.

    Thanks, Ana!


  48. catrouble says:

    Hey Ana…this is such a lovely inspiring post with many wonderful ideas of places to start with giving. I don’t have time to read all of the comments right now, will do that later tonight or this weekend, so please forgive me if I duplicate any thoughts/suggestions.

    The Christmas season seems to be a rougher time of year when you are out of work, sick, suffering from any kind of illness, etc. and made even worse if you have children. In my opinion, much of this is due to the commercialization of Christmas…no longer is it the idea that someone gave you a gift or a card but now it’s how many packages, how big, how much did someone spend!

    What I find awesome is that here in this community of what many vanilla’s would call perverts, I see more generosity, loving, giving, accepting spirit than I see in their vanilla, finger pointing world.

    I know that Christmas is traditionally a time for giving but in a way, that makes me extremely angry and sad…why should this be the only time of year that the majority of people give. Many of the grocery stores have barrels for canned and dry goods year round but they are not front and center as they are during the holidays. Did you know that many of the food pantries run out of food and have to turn people away during the summer months? In addition, most of the food banks run out of food towards the end of the month when social security checks, food stamps, limited income run out. Each week when you go shopping, place a few canned or boxed items in your cart…if you store doesn’t have a collection bin, you can always drive by your local food pantry or Salvation Army and drop them off.

    I volunteer at our local animal shelter…they always need someone to clean out litter boxes and cages. They also need people to keep the animals, especially cats, socialized and of course, dogs and cats need to be brushed and played with. Even if you can only volunteer one day a month, that’s one day of help they have. If you can afford it, they also need litter food, toys, office supplies and cleaning supplies. You might also be able to donate old towels and blankets that might be ripped or torn…but ask if they can use these first.

    Many of my mom’s friends are on a fixed income and don’t know a lot about computers. When they have something go wrong with their computers or they have questions, it can be quite a financial hit if they have to pay for “service”. My mom started telling some of her friends that I was a computer “guru” *cough” *choke* and giving them my phone number…she knew I would not turn them away. Then they started telling others…so now I have about 50 ‘seniors’ that I provide ‘tech support’ to. LOL

    If you have a skill such as sewing, painting, drawing, cooking, basic repairs, flower arranging, basic computer skills, etc. consider volunteering to teach at your local senior center. The more active and mentally engaged they are, the better off they are.

    For Christmas, our local Walmart has a Salvation Army Angel Tree…I pull one of the tags (in the shape of an angel) which states that it’s either for a boy or girl, their age and their wish list…purchase all of the wishes on it and take the bag to the service desk. I usually add a few extras.

    Sending lots of prayers and positive energy to Ria and her family during this challenging time.

    Thank you Ana for all that you do…your loving spirit and generosity of heart is a shining example for all of us.

    Hugs and Blessings…


  49. pieclown says:

    Hello All, I read the post about Trick or Treating #3. I have tried to teach my kid about being respectful.

    If you do not mind I will toot my own horn. 11 months a year I and some other clowns visit the hospital. They ask us not to come in Dec, for they have many wanting to come then. We preform for the the kids there. This is volunteer. We have been doing this for some time. And at times we loose a member of our audience. But we do what we can to make them laugh. I am involved in other charities, but I would like to leave a little note about care givers. For some it is just a job, but some do care. If you ever have someone in a facility take a moment to say thank to the staff.


  50. Michelle B. says:

    wow – OK let’s hope I’m not repeating what someone else already posted, but with over 70 comments and replies (and I’m at work), I really couldn’t go through all the posts so – here are a few other worthwhile ideas for Random Acts of Kindness and causes to support:

    1) Random Acts of Kindness for the holidays: http://www.coffeecupsandcrayons.com/advent-calendar-idea-random-acts-of-christmas-kindness/ (and I’m sure you can all come up with a few original ones of your own!)

    2) If you want to support a pet shelter but don’t know how, how about a gift for the pet mom or dad? Sales go towards pet shelters: http://www.ilovedogs.com/2013/12/i-love-dogs-2013-holiday-gift-guide/#.Up-P7uJj_9s

    3) Looking for gift ideas for People with Dementia* (PWD)?

    *Dementias includes Alzheimer, Parkinson’s, Fronto-temporal, Lewy Body, Huntington’s, Vascular, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, Wernicke-Korsakoff, and even Down Syndrome…

    Early Stages:
    In this stage of the disease, it is important to keep her active. Gifts that encourage certain skills will help her maintain these abilities and slow the progression of the disease. Also, gifts that promote mental stimulation, remembrance and socializing and are aides for independent living can also be helpful. Here are a few ideas:
    • Classic movies and TV shows
    • Crossword puzzles and strategy games to keep the mind active
    • Reading material reflecting his interests
    • A homemade memory calendar full of family photos and important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries
    • A membership to a health club to encourage him to stay active
    • A special clock that displays the date as knowing for sure what day it is can be reassuring
    • Offer your services to help with the housekeeping
    • Plan an outing to a movie, play, sporting event or other similar activities

    Middle to Late Stages:
    Remember that as the disease progresses, it will be more and more difficult for him to perform simple tasks and activities he once enjoyed. Simple gifts that provide sensory stimulation are often the best and can help bring back pleasant memories, such as:
    • A CD with his favourite music
    • Simple games or puzzles
    • Pampering toiletries and other products
    • Framed photographs/photo collages with the names of the people beneath
    • Nature or other videos that feature visual and auditory stimulation
    • Doll or stuffed animal
    • A DVD with old family movies and pictures

    Keep in mind that some of these options, like a CD, can be given to somebody in any stage of the disease. Also, as a general rule, don’t give more than two or three presents. Too much stimulation can be bad a thing.

    Contact your local Alzheimer Society for more ideas on gift giving.

    4) HUMOUR: On the flip side, here are 50 of the (apparently) WORST gift ideas you can give to the food lover on your list – I must admit some of these are quite ingenious but also quite useless hehehe – http://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/gift-guides/slideshow/worst-food-gifts/?slide=51

    Happy Holidays everyone!


  51. Janey says:

    So many great ideas here and how lovely to sew the seed now at a time which is often associated with want as opposed to need as in “what I want for Christmas is….”
    I like to have my children remember others too. At church we all take tags off the Christmas tree which has written on it a gift to buy, wrap and donate to a nearby shelter for the homeless and lonely, just a pair of thick socks or gloves or shaving equipment etc, but something concrete rather than just money. So important for those in need and such an important lesson for our young who have so much too.
    Thank you


  52. Laurel Lasky says:

    I have volunteered as a vol. police captain, for 16 years. I visit volunteers in the hospital, send get well card and sympathy cards plus calls to shut in. I get a lot out of this because you can’t keep it if you don’t give it away.
    I like the Christmas trees but I don’t see a Hanukkah bush. lol


  53. Merna says:

    When I was a child, we had a couple of older neighbors, who were widowed and lived alone. I remember holidays, particularly, Thanksgiving, when my parents invited them to join us. It was a good lesson about being kind to others.
    My husband is a biologist and likes to contribute to organizations that are trying to help the earth, such as Sierra Club, National Wildlife Society, and Greenpeace.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Three more great organizations!

      It’s so important to think about people without family. Holidays are lovely for people with family and with the means to celebrate them, but they can be hard otherwise.


  54. bellabryce says:

    Tank you for the raw genuine feelings and for being vulnerable enough to share this with us. The thing is, though, the man from the church did not give out of humanity – quite the opposite – he gave freely from the love and blessings God gave him. When you know that kind of love it’s an outpouring. And frankly, I’d be surprised to find a church that doesn’t do this. We arrived from England without knowing a soul and the local church sent a group of guys to meet us from the airport and carry 13 suitcases up to our new flat and we had no furniture. That’s the church for you 🙂

    Excellent reminder Ana, bless you ❤

    I don't want to sound selfish, but being 26 and husband is 28, we actually don't have a Will yet and I feel that's quite important now, especially before we start a family.

    PS Sash tied neatly, knee socks lined up, Mary Janes shined.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Well, the story was the other woman’s, not mine, and she was so powerful in telling it. I’m not sure I did it justice.

      You’d be surprised at how many churches are just barely hanging on money-wise. Times are tough for everyone.



  55. minellesbreath says:

    Great post Ana. I really try to volunteer when I see a need. I used to participate in an organization that helped young mothers with a multitude of needs. We would help with diapers, food, clothes, or in any manner we could help them keep their head above water.
    This year I will donate food at my school. Many of the kids we deal with have very little.

    Lastly, I am going to look at needs within the Ups for Downs Foundation….a cause near and dear to my heart.


  56. M. Palmer says:

    Thanks for the great and thoughtful post, Ana! We will be contributing to an Angel Tree this year, and we are also donating supplies for our local animal shelter. It’s so important to reach out to those in need – you never know what a difference on simple act can make!


  57. TL says:

    What a sweet and wonderful post. After all that is what the holidays are really all about. I teach in a school where my kiddos don’t have a lot, and they are still willing to give. The club that I sponsor wanted to collect toys for Toys for Tots, so I am going to help them organize their toy drive. They’ve already done a canned food drive, and want to do Relay for Life in the spring. They inspire me with how giving they are, and I love helping them carry out their plans.

    I also have an Angel Tree kid I will be shopping for this weekend. I love doing that. There is something wonderful about thinking about how much your gifts will mean to someone. It’s such fun to brighten the holidays.

    Another great thing to do that works year round is paying for the car behind you in the drive thru. I’ve had this happen to me a couple times where the car in front of me has paid for my order, so I paid for the car behind me. It’s simple and lots of fun to see the surprise/excitement on the cashiers face. 🙂


  58. Corinne Alexander says:

    I have really enjoyed reading the posts today. Every chance I had I took a few moments to read about five posts or so. I try to keep my eyes and heart open every day for genuine opportunities to give a kind word, lend an ear, or extend compassion. If there is a need that I am able to fill I am always happy to help. In that spirit I have also received kindness beyond measure by those that are close and strangers a like. It’s moment likes those where we are able to give or have received unexpected kindness that we realize that most people are very generous souls just looking for an opportunity to spread kindness and goodwill to those around them.


  59. Emily Tilton says:

    A wonderful, wonderful post, Ana. I had a crazy day today, and so the best I can offer is my prayers for Ria and her family. 😦 I’m incredibly heartened, and joyful, to read about the amazing things everyone here is doing!


  60. sassytwatter says:

    What an amazing post regarding the true spirit of the holidays that we to often forget about in the hustle and bustle. I learned about so many wonderful organizations today and have a wealth of ideas on how to better help in my community. I loved Tara ideas something I will try to incorporate in. Each year we adopt a family through a local organization where I live. I am also a sucker for animal rescue organizations and donate my time and help fundraise for Farm Sanctuary. Today I went out of my way to be friendly and help someone with a project I really wanted no part off even bite my tongue when I really didn’t want to. The post reminded me to be greatful and more helpful. Thank you.


  61. Regan Nicole says:

    What a lovely post! I have chosen number 15. Read Luna and about trans* youth who have lost their lives to hate. Boys Don’t Cry is a movie I’ll never forget- and I’ve also watched the documentaries on Brandon Teena, Matthew Shepard, and the Lifetime movie of Gwen Arujo. I recently purchased Luna and have it sitting on my bookshelf but will definitely push it higher up on my TBR!


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      To be absolutely fair, as a work of literature it does not rank on my top favorites list. I think it’s an amazing read because of the bravery and the honesty of the subject matter. Plus, I think it was one of the first books to feature transgender-erity, if you want to call that a word. I’ll look forward to hearing your opinions of it. 🙂


  62. Sheila says:

    What a great post and wonderful conversation. I don’t like to say what I have done but I will make an exception today. I am scheduled to donate plasma next weekend. I also am an organ donor and a bone marrow donor. I will donate some toys this year to Toys for Tots. We have boxes at work for that. I have so much in my home waiting to be given to someone. I just need the time and energy to clean it all out and donate it to Goodwill or The Salvation Army.


  63. Erzabet Bishop says:

    Okay Ana. You’ve brought tears to my eyes. Compassion is a gift we give to others on a daily basis. In my work as a store manager in a bookstore, I see many things and it is usually when I am feeling the most harried and am grumpy with the known universe. Then a mother who has lost her child asks me for the grieving books, or a parent asks me where the special needs section is so they can better understand their child. It humbles me. I step back and think how lucky I am in my day to day life.

    I have worked with victims of sexual abuse as a peer counselor in school and have tried to help in groups where I have found myself over the years. That too can be staggering in the emotional blows department.At the store just the other day, I had a difficult customer only to open up just a little to find out she was suffering from an abusive relationship and was coming down off a nasty divorce. You never know who you are going to meet in your day.

    Writing for charity is one way I try to make a difference. Coming Together has various causes that are devoted to whatever group is being aided. I have written for the Diabetics Association and Lesbian Rights. I have also done an anthology for dog rescue, a cause that is dear to my heart.

    In my home, I have ten dogs. Yes. Ten. Nine of them are rescues. Most were not intended, but by way of situation I ended up being their chosen dog Mom and forever home. Recently, my husband and I were out for a sandwich and a woman came out of the street carrying a dog. It was a puppy and long story short we ended up going home with more than just a sandwich. I could not leave her to wander the street. No, I was not looking to add to the pack, especially now, but she needed me and my husband and as it turned out, we needed her right back. She is a little light in our lives and I don’t regret it for a moment. Yes, chaos reigns supreme a good bit of the time and finding a quiet space to get my deadlines done can be tricky, but I turn on DogTV and let the zen happen.

    So…I try to make a difference in my day to day life. Under my real name, I am tackling a YA novel about a girl who was sexually abused and suicidal combined with a murder mystery. I am taking from bad experiences in my own life and trying to use them for good. The hurt I suffered can maybe help someone else-then I will have really made a difference. God willing .
    So to all of you…it is wonderful to be here with such a special group of folks. Do for others as you wish they would do for you. It isn’t always easy, but there are hidden gifts you never knew were there. Happy Advent and I wish you all joy in this season of light and warmth.

    Blessed Yule,



    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      You reminded me of something I forgot–being nice to servers and other customer service people.

      It’s so hard for people who want to make a difference, isn’t it? So much to do and so much more we wish we could do.

      I cannot believe you have ten dogs!! Wow. You probably qualify as your own mini-chapter of the SPCA.

      “I am taking from bad experiences in my own life and trying to use them for good. The hurt I suffered can maybe help someone else-then I will have really made a difference. God willing.”

      May it be so.


  64. Penelope says:

    Reading all these wonderful comments, and stories, and thoughts, is so humbling. The compassion and kindness that people have for others – for perfect strangers – is amazing. Thank you, Ana, for a moving post and a timely reminder to think of others at a time of celebration like Christmas.

    I can’t compare my own efforts with some of the commenters here; I wish I had more time to help out with my two hands. But I do what I can, and give what I can, because I know that it might make an improvement to the life of someone less fortunate.

    And, it may be a little thing, but I always try my best to be considerate and helpful to everyone I encounter: a simple act of courtesy that speaks of respect for the other person’s dignity.


  65. George K says:

    What a great bunch of suggestions. We donate to the food bank at our church, contribute to the winter coat drive and like to pick a child’s name from the angel tree for a Christmas gift each year. Nina can’t walk past a kettle without donating and my daughter and I go to the local retirement homes and perform for them. She sings and I accompany her on the piano. We like to donate to the animal shelter, and I am probably a sucker, but everytime I am approached by a person at a gas station or in the parking lot asking for money I always give them some (oddly, this seems to happen to me a lot). We also like to donate to toys for tots and one program that if has been mentioned I missed it, and also one of our favorites, is the Make a Wish Foundation.

    There are so many worthy organizations, you want to do something for everyone but that is not possible. However, if everyone who was able would give just a little, what a difference it would make in the world, and giving is always such a blessing for everyone involved.

    I want to add a personal note. This Tuesday giving day was on my mind all day today. I was flying today and at one airport as we were taxiing out to take-off I asked for the phone number for the control tower. I told them I want to call their boss and pass on my compliments for doing such a really great job. The people in the tower acted really surprised and also could’t say thanks enough. I guess they are more used to complaints.

    Perhaps taking the time to simply tell someone thank you for a job well done is sometimes worth more than we know. I don’t think I would have made the effort if not for this day four post and I intend to try hard to continue saying “good job” when I see the opportunity. Thank you Ana!


  66. Sherilyn says:

    What an inspiring bunch of folks I’m hanging out with here! Because I’m running late today, I was going to read the post real quick, leave a comment, and call it good. So didn’t work out! I read the post and all the comments, sniffling all the way. Everyone’s so generous and kind!

    Twenty-six years ago, a single mother found herself about to give birth and with no gifts for her five-year-old son. Most of her belongings had been auctioned off when the father of the baby she carried refused to pay for the storage unit he’d put her stuff in. Her family had pretty well turned their backs, because this was her second mistaken pregnancy. Thankfully, she did have a job, but her salary barely covered daycare, rent, and food. Her daycare mom’s church adopted her, even though she didn’t attend. They provided food and a tree. Her roommate gave her decorations and lights. A friend who’d just lost his mother added more and gave her some books–one of the most appreciated gifts she got that year, since most of hers were gone. A co-worker cleaned out her son’s closet and gave her all his dinosaur toys and books, which he’d outgrown. When all was said and done, it was one of the best Christmases ever (and the prettiest tree), made possible by others’ generosity. I know you’ve guessed who she was–me. You will never convince me Santa Claus doesn’t exist. I have a personal experience of who he really is.

    Things have improved greatly since then. My family quit being mad when my daughter was born–amazing what a blond, blue-eyed grandbaby can accomplish! We all do service work at this time of year. Because of my knee, I’m more limited that usual, although I have donated to children’s charities and will be sending a box of books to a women’s shelter later this week.

    Because I don’t get around easily, I started sending daily text messages to some people I knew needed some extra support: a lady whose house was flooded during Colorado’s deluge this fall, a gal whose husband of 40+ years passed away this summer, a single mom, another lady whose daughter had to have a serious abdominal surgery. Although I didn’t know these people well before, they have become loving friends. And they’ve started doing the same thing, except for the single mom. She has her hands full. What I’ve discovered is that any little thing can balloon into something bigger and more beautiful than you can imagine. Making a difference is easy when you start looking for something to do.

    Ana, thank you again for this calendar and the wonderful people whom you’ve gathered together!


  67. Kitty says:

    this is a hard one, for me it hits home, me i’m technickly homeless. if not for good friends i’d be cold sleeping in my car right now. the only way I can help now is proviving food with my food stamps. for like me money’s tight for them to.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that this is a difficult time for you. I am glad you have good friends who are able to host you, that you are able to receive assistance for food, and that you are still able to have a tree with decorations. I hope you’ll consider visiting your local food pantry or church or other Good Samaritan type of organization to get a helping hand. If you go to the Ali Forney website, it lists resources in many areas. One might be near you. This is certainly the time of year when food pantries get donations and churches have more available than usual.

      Be safe and warm.


    • Sherilyn says:

      Kitty, don’t give up. I’m so glad you have friends to help you stay warm and well. I agree with Ana; try local churches and food pantries. A few places to try include the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities (although they’re pretty strapped), and even the local Church of Latter Day Saints. While they may shove religion at you, they also have resources to help you get back on your feet. Most churches at least have referral lists and can guide you to help. Never underestimate the human spirit. People will help you. Sending you love, hugs, and support!


  68. Leona Bowman says:

    Well today and everyday grocey shop, I donate to the local food bank. and children hositpal.. If you can help just little bit everytime. it add up in the end helping a lot of people who need it..
    smile. 🙂


  69. Roz says:

    Such a wonderful thought provoking post and conversation. I agree, giving is not only for Christmas and is more than monetary. I try when I can to donate to charities such as SPCA and Red Cros (or crescent). Thank you for sharing the links above.



  70. constance Masters says:

    What a beautiful post Ana and such touching comments. I like to buy a few presents from the trees in the shopping centre and my sons school holds a canned goods drive every Christmas but this post has made me think. I could do more and on a regular basis. 🙂


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