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Simple Gifts for the Soul


  • Bake cookies for a nursing home’s afternoon snack.
  • Visit places in the community you’ve never been.
  • Donate toys to Toys for Tots. (Call 623-1164.)
  • Decorate a tree in the country for the birds.
  • Volunteer with Home Meals. (Call BSU 623-3294.)
  • Put money in the Salvation Army kettle.
  • Attend a holiday concert.
  • Be pleasant while waiting in the check-out line.
  • Take an elderly friend to lunch.
  • Use recycled paper to wrap gifts.
  • Organize a group of friends to go caroling.
  • Send a holiday card to someone with whom you’ve had a disagreement.
  • Buy consumable gifts such as fruit baskets or jams and jellies.
  • Shop church bazaars for hand made gifts.
  • Send a holiday arrangement to a shut-in.
  • Invite a single person to join your family gatherings.
  • Walk through the neighborhood to look at holiday lights up close.
  • Invite friends over to watch classic Christmas movies you’ve rented.
  • Plan a cookie-decorating event with a family member or friend.
  • Take a basket of cookies or breads to the neighborhood police or fire station.
  • Call a nursing home and get the names of five people who don’t often receive mail. Send each one a card.
  • Take extra time off work while the children are out of school for the holidays.
  • Offer to care for someone’s pet while the person or family is away for the holidays.
  • Serve as a chauffeur or errand-runner for someone who doesn’t have time to get to the library, grocery store, pharmacy, or post office.
  • Return your grocery cart to the store along with another one.
  • Adopt a needy family and provide food for a traditional holiday dinner and toys for children. (Call Salvation Army 624-5826.)
  • Donate warm clothing and toiletries to charity.
  • Organize a group to clean up trash at park.
  • Donate books on tape to a nursing home.
  • Call a long-distance relative or friend and don’t worry about the money.
  • Rake the leaves from the yard of an elderly neighbor.
  • Don’t forget to shovel snow when it’s time.
  • Volunteer to help a friend clean windows.
  • Take a busy friend’s car in for a wash and wax.
  • Say please and thank you as many times as possible, please. Thanks.
  • Take lots of pictures.
  • Make a memory album for a brother or sister.
  • Call a friend and announce you’re delivering a cooked entree for one of his or her midweek meals.
  • Help someone who’s carrying an armful to his or her car.
  • Volunteer to baby-sit for a mother while she shops for toys.
  • Rent a cabin at a state park and invite a few friends for a weekend getaway.
  • Make coupons to give single moms for free babysitting.
  • Instead of exchanging in the family, donate the money to a charity or a relief effort.
  • Send cards to those who have lost loved ones this year.
  • Share an easy, tried-and-true recipe with a busy friend.
  • Make loaves of quick breads to give to the letter carrier, the newspaper delivery person, teachers at school and Sunday School, security guards where you work, and your hair stylist.
  • Treat teen-aged daughters, your mother, wife, or friend to a manicure and pedicure.
  • Pay for a cleaning service for a chronically ill friend.
  • Buy a meal for a homeless person.
  • Buy stamps for someone who likes to write letters.
  • Subscribe to a magazine for a shut-in.
  • Call a school and see whether there’s a child who needs new boots for winter.
  • Open a savings account for a child instead of buying toys.
  • Send accolades to the chef when you’ve enjoyed a special restaurant dinner.
  • Give a homemade gift.
  • Make ornaments for your tree and to give to a friend.
  • Make new family traditions.
  • Make a family cookbook.
  • Volunteer to shop for someone who’s homebound.
  • Make holiday favors for hospital trays.
  • Send flowers to someone who will be hospitalized on Christmas Day.
  • Share your holiday dinner with a family who has a loved one in the hospital.
  • Make a sourdough starter for homemade bread and share it (along with a baked loaf).
  • Brush snow off other people’s windshields.
  • Spread peanut butter on pine cones and dip them in bird seed, then put them in the windowsill to feed the birds.
  • Clean your room without being asked.
  • Leave a surprise on the doorstep of someone who has to work Christmas Day.
  • Carpool to the mall so you only take up one parking space.
  • Instead of buying gifts, write a poem and give it to a friend or loved one.
  • Start now by performing one act of kindness each week until Christmas.
  • Share what you did at the holiday dinner or keep it a secret and tell no one.
  • Use your children’s (or a child’s) artwork to wrap gifts. (Most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable.)
  • Make coupons for family members or friends: (good for...cleaning dishes, free hug, making bed, fixing dinner, washing car, etc.)
  • Take a walk on a cold night all bundled up in layers.
  • Make a snow angel.
  • Buy yourself a CD or tape of holiday music.

*Adapted from: Thompson, Sharon, “Simple Gifts,” Lexington Herald Leader, November 28, 1998, C 9-10.

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