Five ways to find real Christmas joy - through giving to others
Is it ‘better to give than to receive’? It seems the old adage, which has its origins in the Bible, is true. A wide range of studies, including a 2008 study from the Harvard School of Business* show there is such thing as a ‘helper’s high’ – a feeling of real satisfaction and joy that comes from giving.
So this Christmas, consider some extra Christmas giving – whether it’s toys or time through a charity like The Salvation Army, or baking a cake for an elderly neighbor. The great news is that it won’t only bring joy to others but may well enhance your own sense of happiness. Here are five tips to help you get started:
1. Give yourself as a Christmas gift – volunteer.
In the lead up to Christmas, charities such as The Salvation Army often need extra ‘Christmas elves’: helpers to sort and lay out Christmas gifts, set up and clean up after events like carols services, and to prepare and serve Christmas community meals.
More than 200,000 people a year already volunteer for The Salvation Army in Australia in a wide range of roles from administration to supporting first responders in emergency situations. Volunteering is a great way to help others and connect with caring people in the community.
Victorian based Salvation Army Christmas volunteer Nay says: “Volunteering in the lead-up to Christmas is so worthwhile. It has become a highlight of our family Christmas. It has been an amazing way to introduce our children to volunteering. They love sorting Christmas gifts for other kids.”
2. Make time for Christmas connection – reach out
While Christmas is often associated with family, friends and connection, for some it is a particularly lonely time. For those who have lost a loved one, have no family connection, or are new to an area, Christmas can be tough.
Many community services also close over the Christmas period, adding an extra level of isolation. At the same time, Christmas advertising and media often reinforce a picture of Christmas community and connection.
Although Christmas is a busy time, why not say ‘hello’, or bake something for an elderly or isolated neighbour? Maybe visit an aged care facility if restrictions allow or write a letter to someone you haven’t connected with for a long time.
The Salvation Army also hosts a range of Christmas carols, church services and community meals. You might consider inviting someone feeling lonely to a community Christmas meal or church service. It may be an opportunity for them – and you – to make some great new friends.
3. Get the family and friends involved – Christmas as a team.
With plastics, landfill, and credit card debt all an issue, encourage any kids in your life to get a group of their friends together for a time of craft to make Christmas gifts for family and friends. Or, let them have fun with their friends at an op shop as they choose and buy recycled Christmas gifts. In fact, why not encourage the whole family, your friendship circle or colleagues to set a small price limit and find creative secondhand gifts to give this Christmas?
Christmas is also a great time to introduce the children in your life to charitable giving. Kids can donate a Christmas gift, or some of their savings, to help other kids and families going through tough times. Check out Wishes for some truly wonderful ways that your kids, your family, your work group or friendship group can help others this Christmas.
4. Buy an extra toy or food – give hope.
Watching a child excitedly opening their Christmas presents can be such fun. But what about kids whose families are struggling and cannot afford gifts? Another way to support kids and families facing a tough Christmas is to donate a new toy or food. (And please remember, Christmas gifts are always needed for teens as well as young children).
Through the care and generosity of Australians, last Christmas, The Salvation Army, a charity closely linked to Christmas care, distributed 41,000 Christmas presents.
Salvation Army volunteer Josie still remembers not having presents or food at Christmas time as a child, and then the joy of eventually receiving Christmas care.
She says: “Every year it was embarrassing going to school after Christmas, as the other children were talking about what they received – and I couldn’t say anything … [then] The Salvation Army started [giving] gifts to us every year. It was so wonderful not only to receive the gifts but to also tell my friends what I got for Christmas. The feeling of belonging was, in many ways, the greatest gift of all.”
5. Serious charitable giving – go big this Christmas!
The sad reality is that over Christmas 2021 (1-31 December), nearly 68,000 bed nights and 136,000 meals went to people who accessed Salvation Army homelessness services, and more than 8500 individuals and their children needed to access safe accommodation. The needs in our ‘lucky Country’ are still so great.
So think big – a fundraiser through a sporting event, your work, business or local school.
Here are some great starting points to get serious about charitable giving:
You can make a big difference this Christmas.
After being supported through a tough time herself, Tahlia approached her daughter’s school to help support others through The Salvation Army. She says: “The whole school got on board to provide presents for the toy program two years ago, and again last Christmas. They gathered a busload of toys each time. It was so successful they also started a food drive.
“[My daughter and I] have learned so much over the past few years. We have learned to be thankful for what we have and to remember there are many people who are doing it really tough. We have learned that if we have the capacity to help others get to a stronger position, then we should try, because we know how much hope that help can create.”