Warning! There are a lot of thoughts and feelings in this post…some good, some not so good and some, somewhere in the middle. Let me start with an admission – around this time of year I get angry. Like, really angry and I’m getting worse every year. It drives my husband up the wall and I’m sometimes unbearable, even to myself! TV adverts make me angry, radio adverts make me angry, the term ‘party season’ makes me angry, the commercialism, the endless plastic tat, the talk of needs – that actually are wants, the talk of excess, the talk of ‘Crimbo’ and ‘Xmas’. The list could go on and on…and on. There are so many things I love about Christmas too, but that will have to wait until another time.
It occurred to me (and my husband, years ago) that being angry is such a waste of energy, and I need to channel it into something more constructive. Why the focus on others, when the only person I should be concentrating on is myself? and who on earth do I think I am judging how others want to celebrate Christmas? and if people want to call it ‘Crimbo’ and buy plastic tat…then let them. Get over yourself, Esther.
The run up to Christmas is not meant to be spent getting angry. With this in mind I have decided to make a decision – to do all my Christmas shopping pre-December so I have no reason to hit the shops in December (I’m almost done) – maximum avoidance, no rush, no stress, no impulse buys! and I’ve also come up with 24 ways to ‘Do Good This Advent’, so I can fully partake of the Christmas spirit. One way to do good, every single day from the 1st December to Christmas Eve. I will have time, because I will have absolutely nothing else to think about. I had a dig around online, in my past, and in my heart and came up with this list of 24 things I could do to help others this Christmas.
Strictly speaking, it should be one a day, but some of them will take a bit of planning, so as long as all 24 are done by Christmas Day – I’m not going to stress about dates and times. I will certainly be scoffing a chocolate every single day though!
24 Ways to DO GOOD THIS ADVENT
1. Buy a bag of high quality food and donate it to your local food bank.
2. Make double of a delicious, freezable meal and take it to an elderly friend.
3. Buy someone less fortunate a plant or some fresh flowers. This is something they might not want to spend money on.
4. Offer to take a friend or family members children out for the day.
5. Put together a basket of treats for a friend who has experienced a recent death.
6. When shopping, let the person behind you do first – even if they have lots of items.
7. Make dinner for a friend who has had a new baby.
8. Donate blood.
9. Have a clear out and donate all of your old clothes, toys and homewares to charity.
10. Offer to babysit for a friend.
11. When you’re out and about collect rubbish and take it home with you.
12. Visit a nursing home just to chat with some of the residents.
13. Give every single person you talk to a compliment.
14. Call an elderly person before going to the shops and ask them if they need anything.
15. Research a charity that you really believe in and donate
16. Donate ‘once in a lifetime’ clothing, such as bridesmaid dresses, prom dresses, or even bridal dresses.
17. Write a thank you letter to a member of the armed forces who is currently overseas.
18. Spend time with a child in need – take them for a hot chocolate, to the cinema, out for a meal, go on a walk or help them with homework.
19. Attend a carol concert and donate generously.
20. Be a kind driver, cyclist or commuter. Let someone merge in front of you during rush hour, whether you’re walking, driving or cycling.
21. Support your community by attending an event – a choir concert, a school play, craft fair or production.
22. If you go through a drive thru or a toll – pay for the person behind you.
23. Leave a note and a fiver in a library book.
24. Buy a copy of the Big Issue.
I’m no Samaritan or daily do gooder. I’m a hypocrite to the highest degree. I have a judgemental side of me that I try very, very hard to quash, ridiculous amounts of people I could have helped, but chose to ignore, and a whole host of missed opportunities. I love seeing my son’s face when I buy him a new toy and of course I go in kids clothes shops and want to buy (almost) everything, but at the end of the day – I don’t want my children to have everything, I really don’t want to dress them in cool or fashionable clothes or create expectations. It can be so hard to get the right balance, as almost everything tells us – we need this and we must have that. I want our life to be simple, purchases to be well thought out and I would be utterly, completely deluded if I thought that my children need anything – they are so, so fortunate. Anything I buy them, or anything they receive is just a bonus. Last Christmas Jared and I spent £26 on Winston for Christmas and after he’d received all his presents from elsewhere, we both agreed that it was too much and that we needed to be careful. I have to consciously stop myself from going wild.
The Starfish Analogy
While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied: “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
The old man smiled, and said: “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
To this, the young man replied: “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented:“But, young man, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said: “It made a difference to that one”.
No we can’t help everybody, and no we can’t single handedly change the world, but there are so many things we can do every single day to make a difference to someone, somewhere. When I get completely overwhelmed by all the sadness, abuse, grief, injustice, illness and upset in the world I remember the ‘Starfish Analogy’, and it brings me some comfort. I’m a Christian, I believe in God and I really don’t understand why all the bad things happen in the world – it is something I plan on grilling God about if I ever meet the guy. I wonder what he’ll have to say on the matter?
What a relief to get that out of my system, which brings me to my next question: Do you want to join in with my “Do Good This Advent”? Talk to your partner, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, children, dog, parents, friends and neighbours, and come up with 24 ways you can ‘Do Good This Advent’. Manageable, personal and done with love. I would love to hear what you get up to, so please tweet me using the hash tag #dogoodthisadvent or send me an email. 11 days to go!
…and breathe. I may look like an angry scrooge, but deep down, I’m not.