There are countless ways to give gifts these days: online, via your smart phone, on a charity’s computerized kiosk, old fashioned snail mail and the good ol’ reliable in-person technique. Some also like to give anonymously, which is an art in itself and filled with plenty of personal satisfaction. But as the holiday season ramps up, we want to help you get the most out of this giving season in a way that will cause you to love every minute of it. Here are 5 rewarding ways to give to others plus another 5 ways to give of yourself, many of which you may find surprising.
5 unique ways to give to others
1. Matching gifts
There are many people in this world who just love to give. And those who like to give (God bless them!) tend to love it when others give as well. If someone like this is on your gift list, ask them what charity they’re giving their next donation to, and match their donation. In other words, if they’re planning on donating $50 to a specific charity, you can also donate $50 to that same charity, as a gift to them. Better yet, if their donation is being given in the form of volunteerism, match this by volunteering side by side! Either way, make sure to let them know their donation was doubled, so they know this generous gift of giving was your gift to them. Any generous person will be thrilled!
2. Bait and hook, year after year
Create the I-can’t-wait-to-see-it
effect by involving them in your creative process and letting them enjoy every moment
of the suspense. Use your finest creative skills to give them what they really want but won’t get a chance to see until the day you give it to them. For example, if you like to knit, let them choose the color of yarn but don’t let them see their new mittens until the day of giving arrives. Do this every year to create a tradition that can be lovingly remembered and passed down through the denerations!
3. Harness your skills
Make something that can only come from you. Don’t consider yourself particularly creative? Keep reading and don’t scratch this idea off your list! Everyone has something to give from themselves, it’s just a matter recognizing it and finding a way to package it. We all have natural talents and skills that can be turned into a gift for someone, whether it be purely aesthetic or practical; something that can be held and cherished or enjoyed only in the moment. We just don’t always recognize our abilities. Have a green thumb? Give a plant or potted tree that you lovingly raised from a seedling. Good in the kitchen? The culinary possibilities are endless! A skilled landscaper? Offer to complete a much-delayed yard project. Good with computers? Give their PC a little TLC. If you are creative with words, write them something special that can be framed or presented in another special way. If you play an instrument, perform a special piece for them in person. Are you good with woodwork? Make a child an old fashioned toy or your loved one something for the house. Particularly crafty? Give them your specialty. Have a knack for spinning the yarn? Set up an old fashioned storytelling night, complete with candlelight. Whatever you give, make sure to take full advantage of the creative hours by thinking positive thoughts and reminiscing about the person for whom you’re making it.
4. Uplift with a gift
Give something small that will improve the quality of their life. This can be something small that will offer uplifting moments or a new skill, for wontof a better word, to improve the overall quality of their life and provide them with emotional and spiritual inspiration. We all need something to lift our spirit and lighten up our mood from time to time, and something as simple as an alluring fragrance in the air has this ability. In the same way that music can get our toes tapping and fill a dance floor within seconds, specific aromas can instantly uplift one’s mood by creating feelings of relaxation, romance and even peacefulness while attracting positive energy. And while an aroma can positively influence the environment that envelopes us, learning something new—such as yoga, meditation or art—can also work as a pick-me-up. Certain activities can turn someone’s humdrum day into something spectacular; can turn a stressful day into a tranquil evening. Consider giving a membership to a yoga studio, a session of art lessons, or an introduction to spiritual classes. The list of uplifting activities is endless!
5. Go for the experience
Give something that you can do together. What have you always talked about doing together or what does one of you wish the other would take a liking to? A guided tour of the flora and fauna in your own home town, a weekend retreat or tickets to a live performance? Meditation sessions, horseback riding classes, surfing lessons or indoor rock climbing? There are lower costing options as well that can be presented in a gift box with the promise (complete with a date and prearranged transportation!) of a special hike together, a day at a secluded beach, a gourmet picnic in a favorite place, or some experience that has significance to you. The list is as long as your imagination!
5 surprising ways to give of yourself
1. Karma Yoga
We all know what karma is and that we can’t escape it, but there is a way to brighten our horizons. Karma yoga means “selfless service” and it is an ancient spiritual practice within Hinduism that is called by many other names by other religions and cultures. It is devotional service, to volunteer. It’s to contribute to society. It’s to do an action without any desire to reap its reward, and it can take upon so many different forms. It is to give for the sake of giving; to serve out of love. Share your expertise, your energy, your time where it’s most needed with a nonprofit or religious organization. Volunteer on your own, with a friend or your entire family. Now get ready for the truly beautiful part that often isn’t mentioned. Selfless service possesses the magic to transform all of humanity into your family, helping you to see the same divine essence that lies deep in your interior, in others. By serving others, you will discover that God is with you, no matter where you are. In a society that values possessions, karma yoga shows us that what we own is not what gives us value.
2. Put a dose of sunshine into your words
Positivity is stunningly infectious. Give the gift of positivity to those around you through the words that you choose. When there’s an opportunity to say something encouraging, do so! When there’s an opportunity to say something negative, turn it into something positive and say that instead. You’ll be amazed at the results as the air around you seems to lighten and you help others get through the day with a bit more pep in their step. This reminds us about the gunas, have you heard of them? There are three of them and they rule our actions, but they don’t have to. A guna is a material mode of nature: sattva is associated with purity and goodness, rajas is activity and passion, and tamas is inertia, ignorance and laziness. Integrate sattva into your life and watch as it transforms into a peaceful existence. For more on that, click here.
3. Help feed aching bellies
Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of children around the world don’t know where their next meal will come from and some of them likely live in your community. Give healthy and nutritious food, or a monetary donation, to a food pantry or nonprofit organization that’s distributing food to those in need. It is a prime opportunity to express loving kindness toward all beings. If you have children, turn this into a valuable lesson of unconditional love and humanitarianism that will stay with them for their entire lives, fostering the spirit of giving, awareness of those who are less fortunate and gratitude for what they themselves have been given. Plan a trip to the supermarket with your child. Choose healthy food that you would feed your own children and explain to your child why these foods, as well as the shopping trip, are important. Deliver the food together to your local food bank.
4. Join a Friendship Group. Don’t know of one? Start your own! In a friendship group, every member gives an annual donation that goes to a charity that the group collectively decides upon. But it doesn’t stop here. Some friendship groups also host fundraisers for the chosen organization. These groups of likeminded souls do more than give to those in need. They also foster the importance of charity through their association and create a support group that advocates change. Charity, an act of conscious and willing relinquishment of possessions, has been practiced as an important spiritual practice for thousands of years. It is known to be a purifying practice that helps one progress on the spiritual path. In yoga, this is called “dana.”
Make worship a part of your daily life and regain the wonder of the miracle of existence, enriching the lives of those around you as well as your own. Worship doesn’t take place only on a certain day at a certain time in a certain holy place. In Sanskrit there is the word archana that refers to the worship of God and often includes offering flowers, light, song, incense and water to the Divine. Enrich your life, and those around you, by transforming your archana into the way you perceive life by making each moment an opportunity to worship. How does this manifest? Your actions will reciprocate life when you offer the best of what has been given. This can be through the vibrant color of flowers, the clarity of light, the enchantment of the spiritual songs, the fragrance of the incense and the freshness of water. Make each instant an effort to offer the best of yourself and make your entire life a ceremony of worship in this great temple called the universe. The world around you will become sacred. You will regain the wonder of the miracle of existence. "Whatever my situation may be with respect to the body and the mundane conditions, whatever may be the character I have been given, I dedicate myself here and now completely to You.” (Stotra ratman, 49)