How To Help Out this Holiday Season

How To Help Out this Holiday Season

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Alison Gerber
Nov 19, 2015

For some of us, the holiday season is the most anticipated time of the year. But there are others for whom the holidays are simply the worst. Do you know someone who is struggling through hardship right now? A neighbor, a friend, a colleague, a family member? Here's how you can help them make it through.

For someone who has lost a loved one...

Holidays are especially hard. They're full of memories. The loss might not have happened this year, but it's a myth that grief fades in 12 months. For a friend of mine who lost her mom, every holiday brings pain. Help a grieving friend or relative by being flexible about holiday plans: let them take the driver's seat for how this holiday will look for them this year. Also, listen. Sit down over a cup of coffee and ask, "How are you doing right now?" Resist the urge to talk. Just listen.

For someone who is single...

Holidays can be lonely. Call up your single friends on the phone just to chat. Invite them over to be part of whatever you're doing. But remember—it's lame to be the only single person at a party, so let them bring a friend. Or, invite a bunch of other awesome single people, too. The more the merrier!

For someone who is far from home...

Holidays can be a time of terrible homesickness. While you're getting together with your family, their family is thousands of miles away, so welcome them in as part of yours. Consider making your "family only" holiday meals "family plus honorary family." And to help with the homesickness? Make some effort to cook or source food from their home country or region, and ask them about their holiday traditions and try to incorporate them in with yours.

For someone who is unemployed...

It can be hard in the holiday season to see everyone rushed off their feet while feeling... useless. As much as we can complain about our jobs, it's incredible how much identity and purpose we get from working. Show you care about an unemployed friend by calling them up and inviting them out to something fun and active: a walk, a swim at the local YMCA, dinner together. Having items on the calendar and having social contact outside of the home could make a world of difference to them.

For someone who has a new baby...

Be aware they are really, really tired. And aren't holidays already exhausting enough? Love this person by not asking them to help with holiday planning this year; instead, find practical ways to help them. Bring them a meal. Do their laundry. Wash their dishes. Don't let them say no. If they are a close friend, spend some time taking care of the baby so the baby's parent(s) can take a shower or have a nap.

For someone who is struggling financially...

If someone you know is facing a very tight budget during the holidays, the question is: do you buy their kids a bunch of gifts or not? While the kids would be happy to receive them, you hardly want to rub it in the parents' faces that you can do what they can't. Here's another option: why not buy a gift card to a local toy store and pop it in their mail anonymously? It can be a really wonderful experience to be someone's secret Santa. The trick is in never letting them know it was you.

If you don't know anyone in these situations, but still want to reach out and care for someone in your community...

Start by asking friends, "Do you know of anyone who needs help right now?" Let them know what you're available to do. I'm almost certain your skills and someone's need will meet up that way. But if they don't, you can always do a little research online. VolunteerMatch and create the good are both places where you could start.

If you want to reach out and help someone in the world...

You could always buy a goat or a chicken (or one of many other gifts) for someone in need through Oxfam Unwrapped, or head to CharityWatch's list of America's top charities to find some other cause you'd like to support this season. There are so many people in need in the world. The opportunities to help really are limitless.

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