I love presents. I love giving them and, yeah, I love getting them. I’m right there with the kids, up early and excited to open gifts each Christmas morning. Gift-giving is a fun holiday tradition, and there’s nothing wrong with it being a big part of the season. Of course, equally meaningful is the increased attention on charitable giving throughout the season.
I smile as I see grocery shoppers dropping dollar bills in red Salvation Army buckets or “rounding up” their change to benefit a local non-profit organization. Here at Anthem’s Waukesha offices, our Giving Tree tradition allows employees to choose a tag to give a needy child a gift from a tree in our lobby. Every year, those tags are gone in hours, and the lobby fills with wrapped gifts just waiting to be opened. Food and clothing drives are also no stranger to our offices during the holiday season and throughout the year.
Wisconsinites’ generosity, particularly at this time of year, never ceases to amaze and humble me. It also reminds me that the most meaningful ways to give often don’t involve dollars and present powerful opportunities to bring organizations and families together.
A colleague here at Anthem has a family holiday tradition of gifting time. It all started with his young daughter who was passionate (and vocal) about fighting animal cruelty. One year, each member of the family wrapped a card pledging a Saturday volunteering with her at a local animal shelter. Now, every year, each of their three kids receives the gift of one day of family volunteerism at the charity of their choice. A cherished Christmas morning tradition is each kid announcing the charity he or she researched and at which the family will spend a Saturday volunteering in the following year.
I know of companies that choose to spend an afternoon volunteering together rather than or as part of an annual office holiday party. Countless others conduct food and clothing drives to collect donations for local charities serving the needy. One particularly creative company got their employees together and spent a morning writing holiday cards to troops serving overseas – not just a “thank you for serving and happy holidays,” either; these were touching personal letters expressing appreciation and love for our sons and daughters spending their holiday thousands of miles from home.
All this is to say that there are so many creative ways to get into the charity of the holiday season. Use the opportunity to involve coworkers and family to help others, build traditions, and bring teams and families closer. You’ll be amazed at how doing good can bring people together.