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8 Ways to Spread Some Holiday Cheer

October 01, 2013
Whether your family's talents range from singing and dancing to cooking and collecting, reach out and touch someone's life this season. Fulfill even one dream below and you and your family can help make the world not just a better place, but a more exciting one!

Throw a "One-Family One-World Party."  

Organize an international potluck meal and invite neighbors of various faiths to share their holiday traditions. Have a child from each faith present a story or symbols, then exchange gifts and share songs from each culture.

Read awhile.  

Lost touch with your "inner child"? Gather up some heartwarming stories like O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" to read to children at homeless shelters. Take along some homemade goodies and offer small gift bags of hotel-sized toiletries.

Give the gift of life.

 In the book Buddhist Acts of Compassion (Conari Press, 2000), there is a story about Tibetan monks who annually visit fish markets, buy up live lobsters, and release them back into the ocean with a prayer. (It's said the good karma will return to them.) Follow their model and create your own ritual. Or, visit a pet shelter and adopt a precious cat or dog.

Reinvent old cards.  

Gather up holiday cards from friends and family, then cut and paste to create one-of-a-kind holiday greetings. Leave off any specific religious symbols, then pass them out at retirement homes with your own personal greeting.

Pay it forward.  

Pop up some popcorn and share an at-home movie night watching the heart-inspiring film Pay It Forward—where one act of generosity inspires a spiral of good deeds. Then perform a similar act of selfless kindness and ask the recipient to "pay it forward"—that is, just say "thank you" by doing someone else a kindness.

Scavenger hunt.  

Invite your child's class over, break up into teams, and go door-to-door collecting for a charity: canned foods, small appliances, old computers, pet supplies, and/or clothing donations. Give each team a stack of brochures on the agency you're collecting for, a street map marked with their designated block, and a time limit. Meet again afterwards for hot chocolate and cookies and to see who collected the most.

That's entertainment.

So you didn't make the cut for American Idol? Recycle your musical gifts by organizing a "talent night" at a homeless shelter, hospital, or retirement home. Present a few of your own acts—opera, musical comedy, belly dancing—then invite the audience to get up and perform. Have a great pianist on hand or at least karaoke tracks.

Outrageous kindness.

Inspire your children to dedicate a day during the holidays to unpredictable niceness. Accompany them to a busy shopping mall and do something nice for someone every hour. Encourage your children to use their imagination and awareness to notice other people's needs. An elderly person with heavy bags? A blind person who got lost? A young mother with crying babies? Opportunities are endless to be a good person.