You might not be able to sneak away to volunteer this year, but there are still plenty of ways to help out!
I know, I know, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet! But we’re getting close to the time of year when so many of us look for little ways to give back and serve others. And today is the feast of St. Martin of Tours, who famously cut his own cloak in half to share it with a beggar, so it seems like the perfect time to think of an act of kindness we can do in imitation of St. Martin.
There are seasons of life when it’s possible to spend your time volunteering in person, and seasons of life when it’s not. If you’re a solo caregiver, live in a remote area, have lots of little kids at home (like me), or for many other reasons, you might not be able to sneak away to volunteer this year. But there are still plenty of ways to help out!
Here are 5 thoughtful ways to serve others if you’re short on time this year.
1An Angel Tree or Giving Tree at church
I always love this sweet tradition of purchasing gifts for children through an Angel Tree at our parish every year. We pick up the tags and drop off the gifts when we go to church on Sunday, so it’s doable even with little ones in tow.
We try to choose children the same age as ours so that each of our kids can help pick out a gift for a child their age. It’s a cherished part of our annual holiday preparations!
2Donate packaged food to your local food pantry
During the holidays, food pantry donations are in high demand! Check with your local pantry to see what items they need the most. Thanksgiving food items are often especially appreciated this time of year.
3Assemble gift bags for people experiencing homelessness
Last winter, my friends and I put together these simple gift bags, with items like warm socks and gloves as well as shelf-stable snacks. My kids and I give them out when people experiencing homelessness approach us for donations.
It’s a simple but meaningful way to help, and most importantly, each gift bag is accompanied by a smile and some kind words of connection and encouragement.
4Offer your prayers
We can’t always help as much as we want, but we know that prayer multiplies our efforts and that God works miracles. Offering a Mass or Rosary for their intentions is an important act of kindess to serve and help people in need.
5Donate to local charities
It’s an obvious choice when you’re short on time, but it’s something that really helps, as donations often make a huge difference. Find your local homeless shelter, crisis pregnancy center, or another charity close to your heart.
One of my friends likes to make a large donation to a local charity each year in lieu of Christmas gifts for her and her husband. They feel that this donation is the most important thing they can spend their money on.
Many couples might prefer both to buy gifts for each other and also donate to those in need, but either way, it’s a great idea to make a special donation part of your annual holiday traditions.