So, in the spirit of giving, here are some ideas for alternate gift ideas, gifts that might just make a difference in someone else's life, a life-changing difference. You could be a blessing to someone this Christmas.
- Give the gift of your time; this is something you can especially do, if your children are old enough to help. Give your time volunteering at a soup kitchen or food pantry this Christmas. Be a servant to people who just need a blessing....be that blessing in their lives.
- Donate to a local charity, such as a soup kitchen, food pantry (by way of food or money), crisis pregnancy center, AIDS organization/clinic, Children's Miracle Network, Gideon's ministry (helping to place Bibles), etc. A lot of these organizations will have special gift giving setups, where you can donate in someone else's name, as a Christmas gift to that person. What better and more personal of a gift than to know that someone donated to an organization that is dear to your heart, in your name?
- World Vision has a gift catalog they send out every year around Thanksgiving. In this gift catalog are various gift giving options for you to choose from. Maybe let your children choose what to give. Your family could come together to send goats or chickens or ducks, etc., to a community or family who needs those resources. You can give a fishing kit to a family. Fruit trees or seeds for vegetables are another option. You can help a community drill a well for their own clean water supply; there's also an option for a shared well. You can help girls who have been sexually exploited and forced into the world of human trafficking. You can send a girl to school. You can help provide basic educational supplies for a school. Help a woman support herself by giving her the means to have a sewing machine. Give the gift of life-saving medications or mosquito nets. There's a wide supply of ideas just within the confines of this catalog.
- Samaritan's Purse is another organization that has a similar gift catalog. Many churches participate in their Operation Christmas Child. With this program, you, as a family, or your child can fill a shoe box for a child who may not have the means for gifts or basic necessities. It's a fun way to get your children involved in the gift-giving process and teach them the true meaning of Christmas.
- Angel Tree is another organization that helps to give children of inmates/prisoners a Merry Christmas. You can sponsor a child's Christmas gift this Christmas.
- Toys for Tots is another great organization that seeks to provide disadvantaged children Christmas gifts that they might not otherwise receive. I know our local Dollar Tree has a big box filled with toys they are donating to military families....you can purchase a toy to give by donating just $1 at the checkout counter.
- Find a military family in your area who could use the extra encouragement and support this Christmas; maybe their husband/father is overseas serving in the war right now. If that family has nowhere else to be on Christmas, invite them to spend Christmas with your family; or maybe this family doesn't have a lot of money to go around this Christmas. Get your Sunday School class together to help give this family a Merry Christmas; this will be such a tough time of year for many military families, as they are missing loved ones....why not step in and put a smile on their faces?
- Apply the same concept to another family in need this Christmas. Maybe you know of a single mom or dad who are struggling to just put food on the table. Maybe a family has just lost their source of income; that has happened to many families with the crunch of these economic times. Step up, and do what you can to give these families a lovely Christmas.
- I had read this idea or tradition on someone else's blog, and it was too good not to share. I can't remember where I read it, so if you are who posted about this, please let me know so I can give you proper credit. We have many public servants who have to work on major holidays like Christmas, such as nurses, fire department personnel, police, etc. Why not bake a major batch of cookies and drop it off at your local fire department or hospital or police department? Just thank them for their service....maybe even walk up to your favorite cashier who has to work on Christmas Day, and surprise her/him with something to brighten up their day. Again, get your kids involved; they'll love it, and it will make a world of difference in how they view Christmas.
- Go to your local children's ward or nursing home, and help to spread Christmas cheer. Maybe you can read Christmas stories to the patients or sing Christmas carols for them....take along treats that can be given out. This would be something better suited for a group, so that there would be more interaction for the patients.
- Lastly, look around your community for ideas on where you can give. Maybe spend less on the toys that your kids really might not need, and focus the majority of your Christmas budget on giving to others....your family could receive the greater blessing through it all.
To read more from Mel, visit her blog, Real Heart Prints.