There’s one gift that’s more valuable than anything bought in a shop; more appreciated by its recipient than anything wrapped in pretty paper; and sure to be remembered for years to come. The best part: giving it won’t require a trip to the store, harm the environment, violate workers’ rights, contribute to the commercialization of our holidays, or clutter the recipient’s home.
What is this fabulous gift? Your time.
This holiday, offer your presence—instead of presents—to friends and family. You can even make it formal by giving the recipient a handmade certificate for specific services, such as the following:
* Provide a free night of babysitting for a friend’s kids
* Help an elderly relative with household chores or repairs
* Spend an afternoon (chatting, having coffee, or walking through the park) with someone special
* Teach someone something you know—like how to cook, do yoga, or speak a foreign language
* Offer your expertise with a task, be it fixing someone’s computer, doing their taxes, or hemming a garment
* Take a niece or nephew on a cultural excursion, such as a trip to a local museum
* Help someone declutter their closet, basement, attic, or garage
* Cook someone a delicious meal, like breakfast-in-bed, an elegant brunch, or a special dinner
* Help with a home improvement project, like painting, tiling, or planting a garden
* Offer to run errands for someone who has trouble getting around
* Take a day off from work, to spend exclusively with your spouse or child (let them pick the day’s activities)
* Offer your creativity—help someone design a web page, redecorate their living room, or put together a scrapbook or slideshow of their favorite photos
If your cup of generosity runneth over, go a step beyond and offer your time to someone you don’t know—by participating in a volunteer project. The possibilities are endless: you can serve meals at a soup kitchen, walk dogs at an animal shelter, build houses for low-income families, mentor inner-city youth, etc. To find out how you can help, contact national nonprofits or community organizations. Alternatively, use an online service like VolunteerMatch.org: input your location and interests, and you’ll receive information on opportunities in your area.
Even if you don’t offer your time in a specific way, simply being there for your loved ones—instead of being at the mall, the market, or doing a million holiday prep tasks—can make the season infinitely more special. Rather than shopping, spend these December days at home with your family: bake cookies, make cocoa, sing carols, and enjoy some classic holiday books or movies together.
Sure, it’s easy to run to the mall and buy presents for those on your gift list; but all too often, they’re stashed away, quickly forgotten, or surreptitiously returned, donated, or re-gifted. The gift of your time, on the other hand, is priceless—and much more likely to have a positive impact on the recipient’s life.
I’d love to hear your ideas on giving your time this holiday season!