Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days to stop and consider whether I’m doing enough to give back. It’s easy to get busy in the day-to-day and forget to live gratitude rather than just remembering it a few days a year. With that in mind, these are some of the great give-back suggestions friends and family have inspired over the years. The fun is really picking where to start, doing something small every day, and living with the spirit of sharing.

Easy to Do Every Few Days

1. Grab the coffee, tea, movie tickets, or food order of the person behind you in line.
2. Hand out a kit to someone who’s homeless when you see them at the intersection or on the road side. (See below for how-to.)
3. Send a handwritten postcard to someone who makes you smile, just because. Say hi.
4. Leave a friend or coworker a voicemail telling them something you appreciate about them.
5. Do a simple chore for someone, such as taking your neighbor’s trashcans in off the street for them, pitching in with the dishes, or giving your friend a lift in to work.

Easy to Do Every Few Months

1. Make 30-45 kits for homeless: Doug and I started making kits last year by stocking up on extra essentials at places like Big Lots or the 99c store or Walmart. You take a gallon zipper bag and fill with any combination of the following: water bottle, wrapped soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, hand sanitizer, razor, lotion, chapstick, bandaids, granola bar, socks, deodorant, $5 gift card to Subway or fast food. Make sure any snack items you include are individually wrapped and sealed in foil packaging so they’re not absorbing the smells of the bath products. It’s easy to keep a big sack of these in the backseat or passenger seat of your car for easy access when you see someone in need. As we’ve given them out, we’ve heard that water bottles and socks and washcloths are particularly helpful.
2. Send a “just because” treat to someone who’s having a rough time or could use an extra lift. This needn’t be expensive–it might be a small flower arrangement from your yard that you leave on someone’s desk. Or you could try sending a favorite magazine to your dad or mailing an article and a cookie or a small gift card to someone who’s going through a life transition.
3. Spend a day picking up trash in your neighborhood. My dad taught me how nice this is when I was young–we lived on a long, windy road about 1.5 miles off the main artery going into town, and inevitably, people would litter while driving out in the boonies. With a simple investment of some sturdy trash bags and two grabbers to get trash off the ground, this is a small investment to give back year round. You’d be amazed, too, how many neighbors want to help out when they go by.
4. Cull through your collection of books and magazines and donate a bag to a women’s shelter or retirement home. Sometimes something good to read is just the ticket to making someone’s day a little brighter.
5. Send a bag of pantry staples to your local food bank. Items that are usually in high demand: peanut butter, tuna, pasta, pasta sauce, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned beans, cereal, diapers, disinfectant wipes.
6. Donate bags and cans of unopened cat and dog food to the local shelter or animal rescue–pets are often forgotten when we’re giving. Litter and unopened toys help too!

Happy Thanksgiving, and here’s to a season of giving that doesn’t have to end in November!

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