The season of giving, not getting


Abigail Puketza

A volunteer at the "Teddy Tea Party" is painting a child's face.

The holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year” in many people’s eyes. It’s rightfully so, as so many extraordinary things take place in December. Houses are adorned with dazzling lights, houses are filled with the glorious smell of baked goods, stockings line fireplaces, and in almost every living room stands a gleaning Christmas tree. Every store plays Christmas carols and the shelves are lined with holiday-themed decorations and presents. For people who celebrate Christmas, it’s truly a very exciting time.

However, we can tend to get caught up in certain aspects of Christmas and completely miss the true meaning. This time of year is kicked off with Black Friday. If you live under a rock and haven’t heard of it, it’s when most stores have immense sales and shoppers storm through them to grab discounted items. This is also around the time that people start making a list of what they wish to receive as gifts from their family members and friends.

This, however, is where we start to go awry. All we are thinking about is ourselves. We shop for things WE want and make a list of items WE want to receive. I know that during Black Friday, I tend to drop hints to my mother about certain sales that are at certain stores on certain items I want to receive. Yes, I do use this time also to buy items as gifts for others, as do many other people. But what is really the reason? Do I purchase them because I have to or I want to feel better about myself? Is it even because I know if I give them a gift, I will most likely receive one in return? Or is it because I genuinely want to make that person feel loved? I can admit that the latter is not always my mindset.

This is what I like to call the cycle of greed. Most people, not ALL, but most people give to receive. It is human nature to want to think of ourselves. It’s hard not to, when splattered on every window of every store are advertisements for the next new thing we want. I know that for me, when I am making my Christmas list, I tend to look around at what others have and wish I had that as well. It isn’t healthy, because having our minds completely consumed with what we want and yearning for when we can open our gifts stops us from being able to give to others.

So, how can we break this cycle of greed? Well, ever since I was a little girl, my family has been going to a soup kitchen for lunch on Christmas day to serve homeless people a Christmas lunch. In the morning we open our presents, but before we can use any of the new gifts we got, we give back to the community. This helps us realize that there are people out there that are not as fortunate as we are to have been given gifts on Christmas morning.

Even leading up to Christmas, I make it a goal of mine to volunteer at least once. Every year, my church has a Teddy Bear Tea Party where children from intercity schools get to have a nutritious lunch, meet Santa, get their face painted, and at the end, get to take home a book and a teddy bear. It doesn’t take much effort to paint children’s faces for an hour or two, and the children have so much fun.

If you aren’t affiliated with any religious group and want to know how you can give back, there are plenty of ways to volunteer. You can be creative with the way you give back! Here are some ideas of ways to touch the hearts of people this holiday season.

1. Make cards for a children’s hospital

This is one of the easiest ways you can brighten someone’s day. Just taking an hour out of your day to make Christmas cards for sick children can make such a difference in their lives.

2. Donate old clothes

People who are homeless or impoverished often only have one coat to keep them warm during this cold season. Go through your closet and find the items you don’t wear anymore or that are the wrong size for you. Just by dropping off gloves and hats, you are providing someone with some warmth this holiday season. You can do this through associations like Purple Heart or the big metal bins in the parking lots of most schools.

3. Donate canned goods

Soup kitchens and other non-profit organizations are always looking for donations of canned goods. Look in your pantry – I guarantee that there are cans of soup or fruit that you have forgotten about or that you probably won’t eat. Even if this seems insignificant, it will help immensely.

4. Sponsor a child

This a way to give back that not many people know about. For an annual or monthly fee, you can sponsor a child that lives in a third world country. By doing this, you can send letters to your child and help pay for their education, food, and clothing; all things we can take for granted.

5. Volunteer at Soup Kitchen

A soup kitchen is a great place to serve at because a lot of people who cannot afford to put food on the table come to be provided for. In a single hour of your time, you can touch so many people’s lives and make a difference.

6. Make homeless care packages

This is a creative way to give during the holiday season. Gather together some small items like granola bars, socks, soap, and other everyday necessities into bags and give them out in Philadelphia. It’s the little things that can make a difference in people’s lives.

7. Spend time with kids at group homes

One of the best ways to serve the community is by giving your time. Time is extremely valuable, and just an hour spent playing with kids in group homes will make such a difference in their lives.

8. Visit nursing homes

Around the holiday season is a great time to visit nursing homes because they are probably lonely. Again, just an hour would be a great way to give back. This will help brighten their day and make their Christmas so special.

9. Toys for Tots

This is a very simple but effective way to give back this holiday season. All you have to do is go to Walmart or even Five Below to pick out a gift. Then, giving it to Toys for Tots will insure that a child from a family unable to purchase gifts will be able to open something on Christmas day.

10. Shovel people’s driveways

There are probably at least a couple elderly couples that live in your neighborhood. When it snows, especially if they do not have a snowblower, it can be hard for them to shovel their driveway by themselves. As a way to serve, you can offer to shovel their driveway for them. This might seem simple but it will encourage them and brighten up their day.

So, I encourage you to pick at least one of these ideas I have listed or come up with your own. Be selfless this holiday season! Below, I have the links of different organizations that you can donate to and get information about volunteering. Remember, it is the season of giving, not getting.

Lansdale Toys for Tots:



Animal Humane Society:

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:

Purple Heart:

Manna on Main:

HOPE Worldwide: