Submitted by Wendy Chirieleison, MS Ed
Community Health Educator
Give Of Yourself This Holiday Season
Take a look around at all that you have. You might think that you have “nothing” or “not that much.” Stop and take a second look, and you will recognize all of the blessings that you do have, and how fortunate you really are. This is important to keep in mind, when often times the focus at this time of year is materialistic things and who is going to give the best gift. When you really think about it, the best gift that you can give someone is YOU! Your time or a random act of kindness just because.
Just as in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” – when the Grinch stole all of the gifts from everyone in Whoville, the Who’s still celebrated the holiday. “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, and bags.” The Who’s knew that the holiday meant something greater than the giving and receiving of material things, and they were happy to have each other. You can put this kind of spirit into your holiday as well, by giving of yourself this year.
VOLUNTEER FOR A GOOD CAUSE
There are so many local organizations that would love to have some volunteers! Some organizations are run solely on volunteers, and they are usually looking for people with fresh ideas and special skill sets. Great volunteer opportunities may include, but are not limited to: soup kitchens, museums, theaters, libraries, recreation departments, hospitals, senior centers, animal shelters, community colleges, support groups, hiking trails or hiking organizations, after-school programs, or sports programs. Why not offer to donate a few hours each week or each month to one of your favorite organizations?
According to research by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), not only will you feel satisfaction, accomplishment, and pride in your work, you will also be establishing connections with others in your community, helping to solve problems, improve lives, and strengthening your community. In addition, the CNCS has also discovered some health benefits of volunteering as well, such as living longer, lower rates of depression, and overall improved physical and mental health.
PAY IT FORWARD
Did you know that some local businesses accept monetary donations that they put towards goods and services for people in need who would otherwise go without? It is also a nice surprise when someone finds out that they do not have to pay their bill because someone ‘paid it forward.’ You never know how an act of kindness, big or small, can impact the lives of others.
According to the Huffington Post, the parents of Alyssa Josephine O’Neil had no idea what kind of difference a simple random act of kindness could make. The Pennsylvania family had a daughter who struggled with epilepsy. One September evening, Alyssa asked her parents to take her to Starbucks for a pumpkin-spiced latte the next morning. Unfortunately she did not make that trip the next day as she succumbed to her illness. After her passing, her parents decided that since Alyssa could not enjoy her latte, they would buy 40 pumpkin-spiced lattes in her memory at Starbucks. They asked the baristas to give them away with the Alyssa’s initials AJO written on each cup.
Starbucks staff were so moved, they bought another 50 lattes to give away. This small gesture was enough to get attention on the internet, and people all over the world began offering random acts of kindness for others at cafes, restaurants, salons, stores, etc., and posted pictures of bills and receipts with ‘AJO pay it forward’ written on them. Because of the overwhelming response from people, the O’Neil’s decided to start the AJO Forever Fund, which helps families pay for medical bills related to epilepsy and also serves as a scholarship fund for aspiring nurses. This movement has gained global recognition.
How can you pay it forward? How about leaving coupons you aren’t going to use on community message boards, buy a bowl of soup for someone in need, donate food and clothing to a church or food pantry, offer to run errands for a neighbor, when shopping leave some money with the cashier to help pay for the goods and services of the person next in line.
A CALL TO ACTION
Practicing volunteerism or paying it forward can help improve your physical and mental health, and can make the season less stressful and a bit more cheerful, no matter what holiday you and your family observe. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukkah, etc., instead of buying and sending presents this year, be present, send your love, wrap someone in a hug, give the gift of your time, and surprise someone with a random act of kindness. You will be happy that you did!
Also, remember that when the Grinch thought he had stolen Christmas, he expected the Who’s to be sad but he was shocked when he heard that, “every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, were singing without any presents at all!” The Grinch was confused but then “he thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas does not come from a store? What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.”
For more information, contact HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, see our website at nlh.org, or visit our wellness center at 213 Harrison Street Ext. in Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.