Amid the frenzy, we uphold generosity as a defining theme of the holiday season. We even sing carols about good will, but does it extend beyond material gestures? We often need to remind ourselves that it's not how much we give to charitable causes, but the true meaning of a gift that gives it value.
There's a reason I'll never forget what it means to give.
The ultimate lesson about the power of giving
Once, during a trip to the city of Salvador in Brazil, I received the ultimate lesson about the power of giving. I met a young boy named Jose, whose job was to shine shoes on the side of the street. After speaking with him and gaining his trust, Jose brought me back to his home -- a bus shelter that he shared with other street children. They had very little in the way of material possessions, but they did have each other.
The kids asked me if I wanted to play a soccer game with them. With no shoes on their feet and using a plastic water bottle as a ball, we played for hours until exhaustion finally set in.
A special gift
When I had to leave the next day, Jose wanted to present me with something to commemorate our great day together. He took off his T-shirt, folded it carefully and placed it in my hands: it was a red and white jersey bearing the logo of his favourite soccer team.
I was astonished by his generosity and tried to give back his shirt but Jose insisted that I keep it, proud that he had something to offer. I was moved by this young boy. He had literally given me the shirt off his back. Even though his life was one of devastating poverty, his desire to give what little he had was strong.
The gift of time
Jose's gift was massive because it meant so much to him. Now, we're not about to give away all of our possessions in one go (or the shirts off our backs), but we can make a real difference this holiday season by sharing our most prized possession: our time.
And the best part, family time and donating time to charity needn't be mutually exclusive. There are numerous ways you and your family can give to charitable causes this season. Including family members in a worthwhile cause -- like volunteering to serve Christmas dinner at a food bank -- can provide a meaningful and lasting impression on the next generation of do-gooders, your kids.
Canadians, volunteering their time
There is a great legacy to maintain: In Canada, almost half of the population volunteered throughout the year and in 2007, 2.1 billion volunteering hours were logged. Imagine what an impact we could have if everyone in Canada embraced this charitable spirit throughout the year. But we can do even better.
The holidays are the perfect time to give back to your community and support charitable causes. Make this the season to truly give!
Helpful tips for giving
Make a calendar of things you can do for charitable causes with your family, and find time to do one each day over the holidays. It could be as simple as helping a neighbour in need, singing carols at a local hospital, or volunteering to deliver toys to children who may be less fortunate.
Find places that need volunteers and bring your family for a day on the weekend. You'll spend time helping others and learn new things in the process. Check out www.charityvillage.com for opportunities in your community.
Remember the feeling you get during the holidays, and try to harness it year-round. Greeting strangers with a smile can be done just as easily in July as in December.