Words by Mia Windisch-Graetz
The holidays are all about giving. And giving tends to be associated with buying presents, or possibly donating money. But could the greatest presents in the world in fact be priceless? Making quality time and effort for others. A homemade meal, a donated personal item that sparks joy, sharing kind words. Often times a simple gesture means much more than any bank note ever could.
So in the spirit of giving back, here are five easy ways that you can give a little extra Christmas cheer that won't cost you a thing!
1. Serve hot meals to the homeless
Give something more valuable than money, your precious time! Volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Prepare and serve food to people in need of a good, hot meal. It will nourish their bodies, and also your soul.
Try: Restos du Coeur in Paris
2. Your unwanted things are someone else’s most sought-after
Donate blankets, home goods and lightly-worn clothes that no longer serve a purpose in your everyday life. Drop them off at a homeless shelter, donation bin or charity shop. You can also bring food and other necessities with you. According to sustainable fashion expert Alexis Assoignon: "If you are not ready to give away your items for free, consider reselling them. You would be surprised at how much money is locked up in unused items around the home". You can use the cash you make selling your used clothes to donate to a charity, to fund your creative Christmas giving ideas, or to host a special meal for loved ones.
Try: Emmaus in France
3. Show gratitude
Love letters shouldn't be saved until Valentine’s day. Express your love by sending Christmas cards to those who give you so much of their time, friendship, love and support throughout the year. Try sending e-cards as an affordable and eco-friendly alternative to conventional paper cards.
Try: Anything! Get creative with paper and a pen - or your computer.
4. Speak up for the voiceless
Support your local animal shelter: Collect pet food, walk the dogs, bring animals to the veterinarian, give long cuddles, and write letters in support of animal rights.
Try: Club de défense des Animaux in Paris
5. There's no such thing as oversharing
Share your home, your skills and your culture with refugees and other newcomers to your country or town. If you don't have an extra room or sofa to offer for at least a few weeks, you can also support by teaching French and English, helping with the job hunt and taking part in events and workshops. Let's welcome those who have been forced to leave so much behind. Chances are that we can learn as much from them as they can from us!
Try: Singa in France