Here are some ideas that came rolling in (in no particular order...)
-Choose a local women's shelter or crisis centre and pack a special gift for a woman and her children. (This is a great one to get the kids involved in, and they can donate their own toys, to REALLY get the idea of giving ie- sometimes giving means you need to give up something that was special to you.)
-Either organise or volunteer for a group that may be running Christmas lunches or parties for the poor this year. Extra pairs of hands at those things are very helpful!!
-Invite someone who might spend Christmas alone to your family gathering. This might be an elderly neighbor who has recently lost a spouse, someone whose family is overseas, or someone who is just a bit lonely and isolated for whatever reason. (My mum's good at this one!)
-Really think about what you're buying this Christmas. Yes, the gift your considering might make someone you love happy for a while, but it’s worth asking who (the makers/factory workers/environment) has it made very UNHAPPY whilst being made? Consider going second hand, hand made or just doing something lovely for someone.
-Often at this time of year well intentioned people will drop off toys and food to agencies to be distributed to the needy. While the spirit of this is lovely, with my involvement with the Salvation Army in Footscray, believe me, sometimes the things that we receive just don't have a use for whatever reason. For example, one year, we recognised that the poorer people in our community were getting plenty of food and toys from a whole range or agencies at Christmas time, but were in desperate need of toiletries...soap, toilet paper, shampoo, deodorant. So make sure before you donate that you communicate with the agencies, and find out what the actual need is.
-Make people smile with a bit of public carol singing. People love it. And in my experiences, it doesn’t seem to matter what religion people belong to, I’ve never known anyone to be offended by a bit of old fashioned Jingle Bells or Silent Night. In fact, I “carol” quite a lot each year, and I’ve often found that in particular a lot of the Muslim women in my community tend to stop to hear me sing carols and love it, for whatever reason.
These are just a few ideas, feel free to keep the conversation going!