Give the gift of kindness

‘Tis the season for giving.

Over the next few weeks, the vast majority of local residents will buy Christmas gifts for their loved ones. Many area Jewish residents will also exchange gifts as part of their Hanukkah celebrations, even though Hanukkah is not actually the “Jewish Chirstmas” as some folks believe. Those who observe Kwanzaa also will give meaningful gifts to symbolize or celebrate some of the principles or values highlighted during the holiday.

It is important, though, to remember that not all of the gifts you give need to be wrapped up ion colorful paper. In fact, some of the most meaningful gifts do not require any paper or ribbons at all.

In addition to finding that perfect sweater for your niece or that fancy new remote control car for your nephew, you can give of your time, your talent and your treasure. Certainly you should purchase gifts for your family and friends if you feel so inclined, but you can also give very important, less tangible things to people you know and to those you don’t.

One of the easiest ways to give to people in need is to simply contribute to a reliable charity. By giving your spare change to the Salvation Army, for instance, you are helping to fund the work of professionals who know how to meet the needs of many in our community, both young and old.

The same is true if you choose to donate to the United Way, the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association or Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Some of these groups assist individuals and families who are facing financial difficulties, while others treat individuals who are sick or hurt, and still others conduct research that could ultimately benefit us all.

However, if you instead prefer to give in such a way that allows you to share the joy of the recipient, you could volunteer at a local soup kitchen or food pantry.

There also are plenty of retirement communities and assisted living facilities in the region where residents enjoy visits from singing groups, other performers or just friendly neighbors who want to get acquainted with them and provide them with some company for the afternoon.

Many local municipalities need volunteers to help decorate, plan and organize holiday parties, cook or bake for special events and much more. In addition, local service clubs — such as the Lions, Elks, Rotary and others — are always looking to add new members who are willing to help advance their many charitable efforts.

We urge you to make the most of this holiday season for yourself and others by finding new ways to get into the spirit of giving.

In the end, you may be the one who receives the biggest gift of all.