During the holiday season, many of us look for ways to serve others. The Christmas spirit seems to bring that out in us. I’ve found that serving with others in a unified effort is extremely rewarding. So I would like to share that experience with you. Regardless of your faith, you can participate in helping others and ministering to their needs. Beginning December 1 each year, there is a united effort called Light the World (#LightTheWorld), which is aimed at helping individuals and families to serve worldwide, in their communities, amongst family members–lighting the way as Jesus Christ did during His mortal ministry.
There’s no set way you need to participate. Christmas is a busy time for everyone, so please serve as you can. Light the World is an opportunity spearheaded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You may see social media shares which include messages about Christ. You’re welcome to share those. In certain locations (see information below) there will be “vending machines” where you can purchase and donate items for those in need. But you can also serve from your own home and do things that don’t cost anything. Find your level of participation and brainstorm what works for you, but let our 30 daily ideas here jumpstart your efforts.
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Light the World
Watch this short, beautiful introduction to Light the World.
NOTE: These 30 ways to Light the World are written as a 30-day challenge. If you wish to participate in my free Facebook group 30-Day Nonfitness Challenges, you are most welcome to do so. I share these goals, one per day, and group members weigh in with additional ideas. You can participate, observe, go at your own pace–do whatever. Feel free to join the fun!
View and download this calendar of suggestions.
You’ll see that beginning December 1, which is designated as a day of worldwide service, there’s a plan you might follow to increase your service goals and opportunities this month. These are just general guidelines and suggestions for you. Our 30-day Light the World Challenge will follow this general calendar. Please know that the idea is NOT to create a burdensome service to-do list during the holidays. Choose things that work for you and your family. Be involved on the days where you can fit it in. Have fun as you choose meaningful ways to uplift those around you.
Serve from home by writing a letter.
Click here to see several great ways you can reach out to others through the mail. These ideas are perfect if you are homebound or just need an easy way to get involved with Light the World.
Learn about a refugee’s story.
I found several compelling stories here. How can you help them? Read, and choose someone to pray for by name. Share their story on social media or with your family at the dinner table. Raise awareness. Count your blessings. If you feel compelled, you can also donate to the cause shared via the link. I have not personally verified the charity, so please use your best judgment.
Learn about problems in another country and donate, if possible.
To facilitate easy, trustworthy ways to donate, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made available Giving Machines in select locations worldwide (see image above). Much like vending machines, you can make selections, pay for items, and they’ll be used directly for the charity indicated. It couldn’t be easier, and it’s a fun, new way to donate.
Or there are plenty of ways to donate money online. Over the past year, members of my neighborhood have sought donations for refugees from Venezuela. Their stories have touched my heart. I have been blessed to share clothing and household furnishings with several families in need. If you’re unaware of the plight of those from Venezuela, please take a moment to learn about them. You might also consider a donation. This is a secure site from the International Rescue Committee. They are a 501c3, and 89 cents of every dollar donated goes to relief efforts in Venezuela and 40 other countries in need. I have not donated through their site, however. So please determine if this option is right for you. On the other hand, I have donated, several times to LDS Philanthropies. 100% of donations go to charities. How is this possible? Lots and lots of volunteers. This is a great way to donate online and feel secure, knowing ALL of your money is going to good causes. Days for Girls is another great charity options. They provide hygiene supplies to girls in underdeveloped countries so the girls can attend school, become educated, and contribute wholly to their societies. Search the site for ways to be involved.
Try a recipe from another country.
As family or friends, have an international night where you learn about another country and eat their food. Perhaps it’s the country you donated to yesterday.
Or perhaps you are from a country different from the one where you reside. Share your heritage! Mabintu Mustapha tells me no holiday dinner in West Africa is complete without a huge pot of Jollof Rice. I’d never even heard of it! By the looks of the recipe, it’s sure to be yummy.
Or what about these homemade donuts from Italy, traditionally served on Christmas Eve? Fellow blogger Christina says they’re called Fritelle. Whatever you call them, they look amazingly delish! Score the recipe here.
Donate used cell phones and electronic devices.
Not sure where there’s a drop-off near you? This website shows where you can donate cell phones to soldiers. Just enter in your zip code and find out where you can take your donation. Here are other great options to donate working computers, televisions, and other electronics. As most of my readers know, Deseret Industries is another great option for donations. But check their website first, as they cannot accept some electronics. Still not finding something near you? Put the word out on social media–free to a good home. Or someone local will probably know where you can take your donation. I suggest you erase all personal information first, however. Search online to find instructions for your specific device.
You know all those extras on the shelf? Put them to good use. Many countries desperately need books for education. Lots of charities will either find a good home for them or sell them for much-needed cash. Better World Books has drop-off boxes at many locations, or you can send them to Indianapolis. Learn more here. You can also find great information in this article about how and where to donate used books.
Light the Community
Invite a friend to participate in a family Christmas tradition.
Every year we decorate gingerbread houses. I simply buy a kit at the store, but we have a great time decorating them. Year after year, we have enjoyed this tradition. We don’t get fussy about decorating our little houses. In fact, they’re kind of gloppy looking, but we love them! In the past, we’ve shared this tradition with friends. This year, we’re inviting someone over to join us. Maybe you will too. Here are some other great ideas for family traditions to get you started brainstorming ideas. Think decorating the Christmas tree, watching Christmas movies together, Christmas caroling–so many options. Or try some of the international suggestions above or in this great, multicultural post full of worldwide Christmas traditions.
Ask an elderly person about some of their life experiences.
Holidays can be a bit lonely for someone who’s elderly. Make their day! Spend a little time with them in conversation about their life. Listen and learn. They have a lot of life experience to share. Not sure how to get the conversation started or how to keep it going? Try using some of these great questions. They’re specific to aging parents, but they would apply for most conversations with the elderly.
Visit or donate items to a hospital or care center.
Some patients at hospitals or residents at care centers don’t receive many visits or don’t have things to help them pass the time. Check with your local hospital to see if they accept donations and ask for their rules. Since patients don’t have much space in tiny hospital rooms, it’s important to donate what the hospital requests. At Christmastime, people often think of donating to children’s hospitals especially. Author Zina Harrington has some great tips for donating toys to hospitals. Read her great post for ideas. One year, our family, with extended family, visited a nursing home to sing Christmas carols. I’ll never forget my nephew volunteering to sing an impromptu solo of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. We all laughed–including the residents. If you plan to sing carols at a care center, these tips can help to make your experience extra special.
Help the Homeless.
Share scarves, gloves, coats, socks, and boots if you live in a cold climate. Underwear and socks are always needed. Donate or participate in food-shelter efforts. Try to coordinate your efforts with an organization that can best determine what’s needed. The homeless can’t easily store items received, and too much of a good thing makes it hard for them to transport items. We don’t want your donation efforts to be wasted or become litter. So please be selective about what you give to make sure it’s really helpful.
Decorate a lonely space.
Do you have spare decorations that could be used to brighten a dreary place? Look around. See if there’s a spot that needs a little sprucing up. Find a light pole on a dreary street; add a bow (which you’ll remember to remove after the holidays). You can buy them at dollar stores or just use spare ribbon you already have. Simple wreaths can also look so cute. Add your touch. Decorate inside or outside. Maybe you know a resident in a care center who could use some Christmas cheer. Your little touch doesn’t have to be fancy to be noticed and cherished. We visit a couple of family members in care centers on a regular basis. We love to decorate their room windows with holiday window clings. It’s simple to do, and the decorations can simply be discarded after use–no need to store. One tip: if your loved one has dementia, choose decorations without words. Our loved one with Alzheimers reads words over and over and over again if she sees them, which is problematic when you’re trying to get her to bed and care for her.
I grew up in a rural setting in a valley. For years, neighbors decorated one lonely pine tree on the hill with lights. I loved that Christmas tradition and remember it to this day. Every time we drove by it on the way to town, it made me happy. For me, that lonely pine tree was a cheerful reminder that it only takes one to brighten things up.
Take note of who might need a little help or a visit. Notice if someone needs a hand shoveling their snowy driveway and walks. Maybe an elderly person would love a visit or would appreciate you walking their pet when they can’t get out. Offer to babysit for a young mom so she can rest or go Christmas shopping. Or enjoy fun, anonymous service. “Jingle” a neighbor with a yummy treat and cute note on their doorstep. Much like the Halloween Boo tradition, this doorbell ditch activity exponentially spreads throughout the neighborhood as families take turns treating one another.
Reach out to coworkers or a stranger at the store.
Consider inviting a coworker to lunch, or just stop by their desk to say hi for a few minutes. Ask how they’re doing, and just listen. Make a note of any ways you might help or things to ask them about later for additional conversations. Or, if you’re a stay-at-home mom like me, look for opportunities while out running errands to be extra courteous to someone. Try to smile and say hello. Hold a door open. Just be friendly.
Light the Family
Serve each other.
Gather everyone together and hand each family member a slip of paper and a pencil or pen. All pieces of paper should be the same size and color. Talk about the importance of service and how it makes each of us feel good when we serve one another. Then invite each family member to list two or three ways they would like to be served during the week. Gather all slips of paper, fold in half, then have family members take turns drawing a paper. They should redraw if they receive their own name, obviously. Then, with ideas in hand, each person serves the family member they have chosen. They can try to be sneaky, or they can serve out in the open. Another way to do this activity is to simply draw names and quietly serve the individual you pick. Service is such a great topic to discuss and do as a family–and a great way to Light the World.
Start or continue family traditions.
Blogger Stephanie has 12 great traditions her family loves to do during the holidays. Which one have you done? Do you do them yearly? This list of ideas will remind you of some great ones AND introduce you to a few new ideas. And, in case one of your traditions is to make treats and share them with neighbors, here are some great recipes to try.
Read Christ-centered children’s books together.
I have a whole basket full of picture books we read together at Christmas. I should write a post about each of them. For now, I’ll share these 25 great books recommended by Kristen on her blog. Each focuses on Jesus Christ and is perfect to read with little ones, especially during the Christmas holiday. So snuggle up, put your heads together, and enjoy special time focused on our Savior.
Treat each of your children to a one-on-one activity.
You can make it a challenge to spend no money. Just enjoy each other’s company at a free event or while going on an afternoon-evening walk. Or use the time to buy or make gifts for other family members. Try to make it a time where you can talk. No cell phones. Few interruptions. Just visit and enjoy one another’s company. If you can do this at home, great. But most of us need to get out to make this happen. Because I often like to keep things doable, here’s a simple way parents can spend one-on-one time with each child. Plan it. Just do a little something. Your kids will love it!
At dinner, tell each person why they are loved.
At first, the kids might think this is stupid. So Mom or Dad should go first. Simply go around the table and share honest, positive aspects about each person. After a round or two, the kids will hopefully catch on. If you have to do this activity a few times to make it work, then that’s what you do. Obviously, you can’t force someone to give a compliment, but hopefully everyone will honestly want to. We’ve done this activity a few times. It turns out well, so give it a chance. Not sure your family can handle the “I love you’s” just yet? Try some of these questions to at least spark meaningful dinner conversation.
Call someone you love.
You might choose someone you haven’t seen in a while and who lives far away. Don’t text or email. Call. Hear their voice; let them hear yours. Talk to them. Maybe this is a parent, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent. Skype or FaceTime, if possible. Involve all family members–even pets. Maybe take a few minutes before the phone call to plan as a family what you might say. Share what’s new. Read a short story together (see previous book suggestions). Sing a Christmas carol. The experience will brighten your day as well as their’s.
Teach your children that working together can be a lot of fun. I always tell my kids that the feelings of self-accomplishment you receive from a job well done can’t be bought or earned any other way. YOU have to DO the work to get the good feels. Holidays are no exception. The house still has to be cleaned. If you live in a cold climate, the walkways and driveway still have to be cleared of snow. There are gifts to be wrapped. There’s simply a lot to do. Time to rally the troops! For my family, it works best if I let my boys have a say in what chores they do. Together, we come up with a list, and we take turns choosing until all jobs have been selected. Then we determine a reward for jobs well done. We usually don’t pay our kids, but we do plan a fun outing somewhere. Sometimes we get treats; other times, we go on a fun walk or to a local event or watch a movie. We also take time to notice how good it feels to have a clean bedroom, a clean house, a tidy-looking yard. Again, the good feels. Also, if I call anything a “party,” it seems to help. So we have a lot of “cleaning parties.” Turn on good music, help each other out, and let the good times roll. It’s the holidays, make it fun!
Gather in prayer.
Does your family pray together often? Many of us remember to pray at mealtime, but do we pray together other times? Together you might talk about people to mention in your prayers. Is there someone in your immediate or extended family who needs your prayers? Who in the neighborhood is in need? What about praying for peace in the world or praying for specific people we hear about in the news? Anyone can pray, regardless of religion. Prayer is for everyone, and it will strengthen your family.
Light of Christ
Visit a temple or religious site.
We do so much online that it’s important to physically visit places of peace. Our bodies, souls, and minds need the time to ponder and reflect. We get so busy during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season that it’s easy to overlook Christ. Take some time to visit a site that you feel is spiritual, regardless of your religion. For me, it’s any of the temples for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But I also feel spiritual renewal in the outdoors. Maybe you feel that way too. Choose your place and make it a priority to go there, either by yourself or with family–or maybe both.
Attend a worship service.
Do you have a church you attend? Make sure to attend worship services. They’ll bolster you and provide meaning to your life. Anyone of any religion is invited to attend meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Click here to find a location near you and see the meetings schedule. There’s no commitment; just enjoy the services. Or I suspect all denominations would love to welcome you for holiday services especially.
Read the scriptural account of the Savior’s Birth.
Luke 2:1-16. Read as a family or by yourself. Savor the words. Picture the Nativity. I adore this short video. It helps me to be there, in a way. It helps me to better understand Mary, her significant calling. And it helps me to focus on the Savior, His all-important Atonement and blessing in our lives. Because of His birth, we might live again with Him and our Heavenly Father.
Listen to a song about Christ.
We often focus so much on the commercial Christmas songs this time of year. They’re fun, of course. But there are so many beautiful songs about the Savior for us to cherish also. I’m sure you have your favorites. Here’s one I’d like to share. It’s from the Bonner Family. I met them at a recent event to jumpstart #LightTheWorld. I love their sound, their purpose, their faith. You will too.
Share a scripture or image of Jesus Christ online.
This is such an easy way to show your love for Christ and to help Light the World. My friend Camille has made some really cute, free scripture printables. Click here to see all of them. You can also visit this link for free images of Christ to share.
Pray every day.
Prayer is always a connection to God. If it isn’t already a habit to pray every day, challenge yourself to begin. Your relationship with God and His Son will grow stronger as a result. If you already pray often, consider making your prayers more meaningful. Pray for people by name. Pray to better understand Jesus Christ and His gift of the Atonement, which provides the way for us to return to Heavenly Father someday. Pray for strength to endure your burdens. Pray for love. Pray about your personal goals for the new year. Pray for world leaders. Pray for whatever you need. You might also think about the importance of prayer today. Here’s a link to some articles you might read.
Learn about Jesus Christ.
Read about Him in the scriptures. Pick up a book about Him. Find articles online to help you increase your understanding of Jesus Christ. Draw closer to Him as you learn more about Him. This excellent link takes you to a wealth of resources.
Be Like Jesus Christ
How can you be more like Jesus Christ today? Can you smile at someone? Lend a helping hand? It might only take a few seconds, but it might make a world of difference to someone. Today isn’t about you. It’s about serving as He did. Look for ways to be of help. In the process, I think you’ll find that your day will go extra well, your load will seem lighter, and your world will seem brighter. See some great, simple ideas in this short video.
Share What You’ve Learned
Maybe you’ll choose to share again on social media. You could talk about how prayer helped to relieve a burden. Or maybe you’ll want to share how your experience with #LightTheWorld this season helped you to focus on the true reason for the season. Perhaps you’ll want to talk privately with someone about your experience. Sharing one-on-one can be such a wonderful experience. Do what seems right to you. But share a little so that someone else can be uplifted too.
How did you Light the World this holiday season? I’d love to hear your experiences and suggestions and perhaps incorporate them in this post.
Have a link you’d like me to consider adding? I want to know about that too.