I often talk about how important it is to reach out to others in love and service on a regular basis. But during the holidays, we need to be especially focused on giving, serving, and caring for people. I want to offer up a few ideas on how simple it can be to make a real difference in someone’s life this holiday season.
At our company’s headquarters, our “Giving Tree” is set up in the main lobby. We choose a couple of families in our local community each year who could really use a lift over the holidays. On the tree are gift tags for the family members—kids, teens, and adults—with requests for specific things they need or would like: slippers, a sweater or jacket, a certain toy or book, etc. Lots of our associates take one or two tags off the tree and return with gifts to be distributed to these folks who otherwise may not have expected much in the way of gifts this year.
Making a difference doesn’t have to involve money, though. Think of ways you can offer your time or talent. Bake cookies for people in a group home or halfway house. Get a group together to sing holiday songs at a retirement center. Spend a few hours serving meals at a shelter or working at a food bank—places that are extra busy this time of year.
Writing a personal note to someone you care about is another no-cost way to make a difference in someone’s life—especially if it’s someone on your list who “has everything.” A heartfelt note written to a parent, a sibling, or a long-distance relative or friend may be the most important gift they receive this year.
My good friend Colleen Barrett, former president of Southwest Airlines and my coauthor on Lead with LUV, is remarkable in many ways—and something she is known for are her thoughtful, handwritten notes. When Colleen was at Southwest, she sent out more than 1000 handwritten notes every year to staff and managers. She had spies everywhere! Colleen wrote notes for every reason—to celebrate work anniversaries, weddings, new babies, graduations—to sympathize when someone had been in an accident or lost a loved one—or to praise a worker who had gone above and beyond for a customer. Even though she is retired, Colleen’s handwritten notes of kindness to others continue to flow.
Remember: real joy happens when you get in the act of forgetfulness about yourself. Giving is not about you. Don’t give a gift because of how good someone was this year, or what they did to help you. Just give because they deserve it. And don’t serve because you expect something in return. Do it because you care, and because it’s the right thing to do. Your reward is simply joy—the joy that comes from giving.
So this holiday season, find a way to make a difference in somebody else’s life. Reach out to a family member. Reach out to a friend. Reach out to a neighbor. Reach out to a stranger. Because that’s what it’s all about. And when you do it, you’ll get into the moment. You’ll feel the joy. And you’ll realize that life really is a special occasion.