'True holiday spirit is about giving to those in need.'

Friday, December 20, 2013

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By Ceola Wilson, The Royal Gazette, December 20, 2013

There are alternatives to the frenzy of Christmas shopping and the stress that accompanies the felling to get it all done before the holidays — and those alternatives include helping others.

According to Elaine Williams, executive director of The Centre on Philanthropy, “an opportunity to give on every street corner, at every cash register, and in every other e-mail hitting our inbox”.

“What does your holiday season look like? For many, it’s about fighting for a parking spot, spending hours searching for gifts, and then cooking tirelessly for one day of the year. Welcome to the season of excess consumption and overwhelming stress,” she said.

But Ms Williams added: “The holidays don’t have to be that way.

“True holiday spirit is about giving to those in need. That’s not the kind of giving that drains your bank account and floods your credit cards. It’s giving that comes from the heart.

“If you’re buying gifts out of obligation, it becomes a chore. If you’re buying gifts you can’t afford, it becomes a worry. If you’re buying gifts people will never use, it becomes a waste. If you have planned for Christmas gift giving and can afford it, you will avoid the stress and pretence and you may even be able to take advantage of the incredible bargains that Bermuda retailers are offering.”

Giving to a charity “that provides services to a cause that is near to your heart” is another option.

“Charities are experiencing an unprecedented demand on their services. Many of them are providing services outside their scope and with less staff because of major financial demands,” said Ms Williams.

“Your gift to a charity ultimately makes a major contribution to a community need which makes a measurable contribution to a healthy social climate.”

On that note she encouraged residents to help “answer the call for charity”.

“We can activate our giving to send off 2013 with a flourish of generosity,” said Ms Williams.

“Pick a charity and tell your family and friends in lieu of gifts you will be donating to this charity and making a lasting contribution to others.

“Volunteer your time at a shelter for the homeless, abused or animals. Or give the gift of quality time to friends and families by planning outings together instead of exchanging material gifts.”

Another way to give back she said is “cheering up the sick and lonely with a visit and a smile (children and adults in hospitals, seniors in nursing homes)”. Or “host a giving party and ask everyone to bring a gift or donation for your favourite charity”.

During the holidays is also a good time to “clean out your cabinets and closets and give away what you don’t use anymore to those in need through charities that offer these services”.

Neighbourhood clean ups or in parks, beaches, the railway trails or even the streets offer other options.

Said Ms Williams: “This Christmas season presents an ideal opportunity to spend some regular time in a state of gratitude and love, and then intentionally send those feelings out to your community for all who need it.”