10 Easy Ways to Give to Others

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I watched a newsclip last week about Oprah’s Favorite Things segment of her television program. I’ve never watched the Oprah show, but evidently, once a year, O gives a ton of stuff to everyone present. The segment topic is always a surprise and the show’s audience doesn’t know until it starts that they’ll need a semi to take their loot home.

In theory, it sounds nice, but to watch these people bowing down, jumping up and down, and otherwise having conniptions, actually scared me.

We have become a culture of stuff.

This should not surprise me. I, myself, am guilty of my fair share of “retail therapy.” Even if I’m “getting a good deal,” I’m acquiring stuff. And stuff can enslave us.

My husband, on the other hand, is a true giver. His generosity puts me to shame. And I’m hoping some of it will rub off on me eventually.

Others around me have also been great examples of giving. If you’ve been following the Thirty Day Giving Challenge, you know that there is no shortage of ways that we can give to others.

So, this year, I’m hoping to be a little more open handed in my giving — and a lot less like Ebenezer Scrooge.

Here are 10 easy ways I’ve thought of to give to others:

1. Pass on the gift card to someone who needs it more.

2. Prepare shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

3. Pay for the order ahead or behind me in line at the drive-thru.

4. Take cookies to my neighbors, even if I don’t know them.

5. Walk out to the garbage collectors with “to go” cups of coffee.

6. Treat someone outside of my household to a big ticket item.

7. Donate a stack of brand new, not ratty, overused books.

8. Take a box of groceries to the local food pantry.

9. Randomly give a $20 bill to a tired looking mom.

10. Give an extra big tip next time we eat out.

I  must confess that I’m chicken to do many of these things. They take stepping out of my comfort zone. They take extra effort. They take guts.

But, God has given me much. And why should I not give, too?

Help me think of other easy, but good ways to give!

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Comments

  1. Great ideas. Thanks.

  2. Jen Fitzpatrick says:

    Thank you so much for mentioning these things! I know it’s hard to remember all of the things that we “should” be doing. One of our grocery stores here (Hannaford) makes sending a box of groceries to a food pantry really easy. They have boxes all made up and you can purchase them for $10 and then they will send it to the pantry for you. People are always surprised to hear that I purchase a few of these every season. I guess most people think that 1 is enough! I also participate in the food drive through the kids school and send in bag fulls of the item that each classroom is collecting. I find that it’s sometimes the small ways that people can help, really add up. I hope everyone has had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends and that your holiday season continues the same way!

  3. This is a fabulous list! I love the idea of #5- what a thoughtful surprise and it doesn’t take a big budget to make it happen. :) Of course, at our house the garbage guys come at 5am (when it’s pitch black)… which means my hubby would insist on going out there instead of me. (Have I ever mentioned he’s a worrier about me? ;)) Thanks for the great ideas.

  4. My husband tends to be much more generous than me, just like your husband, and that has rubbed off on me a bit over the years.

    I think we frugal people can tend to struggle with generosity…we hold on to our money TOO tightly!

  5. I am a really good tipper most of the time :) But I always miss the deadlines for those collection drives this time of year. I have found it easier to drop stuff off at my church bc I can do it at any time. The struggle for me is homeless people. I have always wanted to pack up a few lunch sacks for them and drop them off under the freeway where they congregate, but honestly I am scared.

    • @elizabeth,

      Bring a friend, friends, or your husband & go in the daytime…you may even ask your local Police Dept. if they would accompany you.

      That’s such an awesome idea!!

      My girlfriend & her family did that recently in a local town, where they collected blankets & coats (it gets cold here in Va.) & socks & handed out fliers to some of the homeless with a date & time that her family would be down there to hand items out. That may be an idea for you, as it would bring them to an area that you & your friends would feel more comfortable (rather then under a bridge).

      What a blessing!

  6. I like the idea of coffee to the collectors. I received $20 from a lady one day in the grocery store! What a blessing! Cookies to the neighbors including ones we don’t know. Baking with a purpose. I like it!
    Thanks for the lists. Thinking I need to make my own!

  7. How about adopting a military family for the holidays? Home Front Hearts is trying to make the holidays happen for military families struggling just to survive. Only 1% of our country (and their families) serve – regardless of how we feel about our current conflicts, I think we all have a responsibility to care for these families who sacrifice so very much.

  8. If your city has toll plaza’s pay for the car (or two) behind you…I have a Smart Tag but have gone through the Full Service line before & paid cash for the car behind…I even had one man wave at me as he passed. The toll was only a $.50 toll, not like the NJ Turnpike or anything, but I felt like a million bucks!!

    It’s like that saying “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” It may not cost alot, or anything, but YOU feel SOOOOO good, & so blessed!

    • @Tiffany,
      Lovely.. Just what I was going to suggest.. Also, offering to babysit a new mom’s bundle of joy while she gets pampered. Bake a batch of cookies or a cake for the homeless or visit the orphange. We used to do that each year for birthdays and holidays as kids and am planning to do the same starting this year with my toddler. Sad that I stopped doing it when I grew up:-(
      Another one.. suprise someone with something they really want. I just had that happen to me (thanks, Jessica!) :-)

  9. Coffee for the plow drivers is always a good one if you can catch them – a lot of times you will see them taking a short break in a parking lot.

    We do the “adopt a family” tags – they are usually fairly easy items to purchase – this year my daughter selected two items I would never have selected due to price, but after considering it, I thought why not and its been fun to try and get these items using sales (DS game and a particular DVD).

    I also need to give to my paper carrier – I seem to always forget that one in the hustle and bustle but I so appreciate my delivered paper (early in the am no less) and I know tips are what really makes it worthwhile (having had a paper route as a kid!)

  10. I try to donate as much as I can through my couponing and deal seeking. Currently I send most of the men-related personal care items to soldier’s in my husband’s platoon (they are deployed). He said some of the single soldiers do not get very many boxes, so they really enjoy getting to dig through the boxes. Even though these items are things they can buy over there, I get much of it for free or pennies, so I like to pass on my savings.

    I love the coffee idea for the garbage truck drivers, I think I will try this with hot chocolate.

    Thank you for some wonderful tips!

  11. When I’m shopping with a coupon that can be re-used and doesn’t need a credit card(like a spend $40 save $10 from Aeropostale) I’ll offer it to the person behind me to use also. If I have duplicates I’ll offer those out too. I’ve received me happy responses from the moms who have gotten them.

  12. Here are a few more simple ideas I’ve been on one end or the other of the giving:

    -Give a Christmas card to your favorite cashiers at the grocery store.
    -Homemade Christmas cards to soldiers serving in the war, or their families back home.
    -Invite singles from church to share the holiday celebrations with you.
    -Leave a few gifts on the steps of a family who is struggling financially. Especially if they have kids, its heartbreaking not to be able to give your kids anything for the holidays.
    -If you know a family that could use the food, but won’t take a hand-out. Buy too much for your freezer or pantry (on purpose) and then tell them they would be doing you a favor if they would take it off your hands.
    -Offer to babysit for a young mom so she can get some shopping or baking done. Or invite them over and do it together.
    -Caroling at a nursing home or retirement center, hospital, etc.

  13. I was suprised to see that I already do a couple of those things:-)

  14. Take a cup of hot chocolate or coffee to the Salvation Army Bell Ringer!

  15. I always bring bagels into work the last day before the holiday, everyone appreciates them and it gives us a chance to sit around and chat!

  16. When our kids were very young and we didn’t have a lot of money, we went out to eat (a REAL treat back then). When we got up to leave, someone had paid our ticket without telling us, including the tip. I still remember how grateful we were and how special we felt.

  17. As a soldier, my husband has been on the receiving end of many free meals while in uniform or even sodas at the airport. I know I appreciate those people and knowing that they support our military!

    I’ve paid for the car behind me at Starbuck’s before. I was having a crappy day and I felt so much better afterwards!

    Unless the service is horrible, we tend to leave a 25% tip most times. As a former server, I know it’s a lot of hard work.

    Thanks for the reminders! ONce I get this semester behind me, I intend to do my holiday baking and share with many of our neighbors! My 4 year old is well known around our neighborhood, so this will be a fun way to meet some of them, as well as share some of our blessing.

  18. We like to purchase grocery store/Walmart giftcards to pass out to the homeless. I feel better about this than cash, because it can be used for food/necessities and sometimes God just compels me to give.

    Also this year we’re doing a program called ‘Be Santa to a Senior.’ The premise is that senior citizens are just as often without gifts or cheer at Christmas like children… http://beasantatoasenior.com/

  19. I love this list.

    As a college student, I have noticed an easy way to brighten everyone’s day is to pass candy down the row of seats around me in the classroom. Sometimes the tiniest things can brighten your whole day!

    On a more serious note, I have donated my used textbooks in the past. This year I want to see if my campus bookstore would accept donations to be given to students in need next semester. My campus has also held a school supply drive in the past, where at the end of the semester students drop off their gently-used mechanical pencils, highlighters, notebooks, etc. The supplies go to the local boys and girls’ club, where they don’t mind if a few pages of the notebook were already torn out. This doesn’t have to be limited to college – you can pass on used books and school supplies at any age or grade level.

  20. Great ideas. I also hate the idea of “stuff” and “more stuff”. This year we are donating money as gifts to a Franciscan monestary that serves the poorest of the poor around the world. Our family is probably considered poor in this country but gosh we are RICH in comparison to others in the world. The $20.00 gift that someone probably doesn’t need would feed a kid for a long time when the right charity is using it. I just imagine that it is one of my kids who is hungry and how greatful I would be for the donation.
    Oh, and an idea for those who want to give to the homeless. My friend takes her bags of jackets, blankets and food (usually all in one type meals) to donate and puts them in boxes marked FREE where the homeless hang out in her town. That way if they are too proud to go to a distribution point they still will get the supplies needed. You maybe could have a cop drop them off if it is in a bad neighborhood.

  21. If you support missionaries or sponsor a child on a monthly basis, consider giving them a double gift in December. Missionaries have a lot of big one-time expenses (conferences, plane tickets, etc.), and that extra gift can help cover those costs :)

  22. One of my favorite ways to give is to pass on a box or bag of gently used (not stained and tattered) children’s clothes to a friend in need. I also enjoy receiving these from time to time! It’s like giving or receiving Christmas at random times of the year!

  23. Our church partners up with the Red Cross’s Christmas for Everyone program every year. Individuals or families can sponsor a child or children–they are given the child’s name, age, sizes, and Christmas wishes. They ask for all gifts to be new, and to commit to spend $35. We sponsor a child for each of ours (we ask for children the same age/gender as our own), and then have our kiddos help us shop for them. It’s a great teaching opportunity! Then, on a Saturday before Christmas, the parents of the kiddos can come to the church to pick up the gifts, have them wrapped by people at the church, and “buy” other gifts from the “bonus gift store” with basically Monopoly money. It’s so much fun to serve as a family on distribution day! We usually help with the child care so that the parents can pick up the gifts and have them wrapped without their kiddos seeing them. What a blast!

  24. At a time when things were really tough for us, someone paid the $20 for my groceries. It made me cry and I still thank God that he sent that woman into my life at that time. A small thing can make a big difference.

  25. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing them. I especially liked the idea of giving my favorite grocery cashier a Christmas card. I’m sure she would appreciate that.

  26. These are great ideas. So many things are focused on “stuff” and on how much you spend at this time of year. Its nice to see so many kind things that can be done without going broke.

  27. shortly after my husband died, I was walking through the grocery store totally baffled what to buy for one single person and I started to cry. A lady asked me if I was okay and I said no, my husband died, and she asked if I need help or anything, i said no but thank you and we went our way. When I was in the line she came up behind me and I didn’t notice but she moved the bar that separates our groceries and told the cashier she was paying for mine too. She didn’t have to, but it made me feel nice that some random stranger cared. of course I also felt kind of embarrassed that she felt the need just because I was crying like a baby in the store. Thanks for reminding me of this.

    I wish more people realized that there are more ways to help people than they think they are. Around that same time I was asking my family to come help but they would say they have no money. But you know, sometimes keeping company is a big help.

    Even today, 2 years to the day later, I could use the company, at the very least.

  28. Do you watch Glenn Beck? He is doing a great series on this right now – in fact, last week he actually showed the clip from the O show with all the people bowing and crying because of the stuff they’d just been given (then crossed over to the people camping out for Black Friday).

    I love your ideas. I’d also like add another one which we did once. Pay for the meal (or just the coffee) of a military member/family. Our family was out to eat just over a year ago when we lived in Texas, and a Military dad and his wife and two kids came into the restaurant (we knew because he was in full dress). I said to my husband that I’d always wanted to secretly pay for a military family’s meal, and he was like “let’s do it”. So we told the waitress, she arranged for us to get their bill when she brought ours, and we paid (we had gotten there quite a bit before them). We wrote a note on a napkin thanking them for their service to our country and asked the waitress to please deliver it after we left.

    I would have loved to see their reaction (there’s nothing wrong about feeling good about your giving), but we didn’t want them to know it was us, so we decided to let God do the work and didn’t stick around to see the reaction. It was a little price to pay for something so much bigger than they are doing for us.

    • @Jennifer, This brought tears to my eyes! As a mil wife, I know how much this act must have meant to this family. There have been times during small talk with a stranger, when they express their gratitude for my husbands service. The thanks alone is worth SO much. Even a simple thank you reminds a servicemen his/her sacrifices are worth it! That costs nothing :)

      • @Candace,

        OK, now you’ve made ME cry! I make it a point of ALWAYS thanking any service man or woman when I see them (and its not totally rude to interrupt or talk to them), and have been teaching my kids to do the same. I just love hearing the kids (3 & 5) point out someone in uniform and say “hey Mom, there’s a soldier, let’s go thank him/her”.

        So thank you for your service as a military wife, as that is a huge sacrifice in and of itself. A very good friend of mine is a mil wife, and I just don’t know how you do it. Amen and God Bless.

  29. These are all great ideas. I have a question about giving and receiving graciously. Sometimes I have tried to do something generous and people just act like I’m a nut. And I think that if I were on the receiving end of some of the above, I might also be a bit wary. Particularly, I find myself always unsure if people are really serious about watching my kids or if it’s just something you say and whether they expect me to pay them or return the favor…sometimes it just seems more clear-cut to pay someone because the rules of the transaction are mutually understood. Am I just weird?

  30. This post inspired me to start my own 24 Days Of Giving Challenge! http://www.crazybeautifulisis.com/2010/11/24-days-of-giving-challenge.html

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jessica G Fisher, JessieLeigh. JessieLeigh said: Some great ideas! — RT @FishMama: New on LifeasMOM – 10 Easy Ways to Give to Others http://bit.ly/icrDKm [...]

  2. [...] Last night after dinner we watched The Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey. Last year a couple of the FishBoys and I saw it in the theatre in 3D. The action is certainly not as dramatic on the TV, but it’s still a good flick, and so inspiring toward giving, something I’m trying to grow in this year. [...]

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