There are now just 10 days until Christmas, and if you are a planner like me, then all your cards have been mailed, and the gifts have already been shipped or wrapped and waiting for you to hand-deliver them to loved ones. If instead you are more of a last minute type, well hopefully you will get it together within the next week. But either way, I hope you find some time to do something for someone outside your immediate circle.
Plenty of organizations with noble causes desperately need donations– either of funds, specific items, such as canned foods or toys, or your time. In the DC Area, we have a number of great local causes that need volunteers, some of which were recently featured in Bethesda Magazine’s last issue. During the 2 years that I hosted “Making It Last” on MMCTV, I tried to feature at least one non-profit each month that was doing something to help families in our area. One of my favorites was Junior Achievement, which relies on volunteers to teach financial literacy to students in grades 3-12. Earlier this year, through this organization, I taught once a week for 5 weeks at my son’s school and loved it. (www.juniorachievement.org)
The last four years, there is another organization that I’ve enjoyed helping: The Storybook Project. Each month, attorney volunteers in Maryland go to prison and record mother’s reading stories to their children. The recordings are then mailed, together with the children’s book, to the children so they can hear their mother’s voices and maintain that connection. Unfortunately, many children lack the ability to visit on a regular basis, so for the holidays the prison puts together a special party each December. The mess hall is decorated for the holidays, and Santa shows up and takes pictures with kids a Christmas tree. Each child gets both a present and a book, and they can get their faces painted, decorate cookies, do arts and crafts, or just eat and enjoy some music while enjoying time with their mothers.
It might seem strange that during the holidays in particular I would enjoy going to prison, where we are stripped of our phones and all jewelry, and subjected to being frisked and monitored by camera every step of the way. But the fact is I find that this humbling experience helps me put things in perspective. No matter what trials and tribulations I might have been through throughout the year, it is nothing compared to what these mothers in prison have been through. And yet, when they see their children, they light up and do their best to enjoy the limited time they have with their kids. When you witness this, it just hits you– this is the time to let it all go, and just enjoy the present for this is the true gift of the holidays.
This time of year, take a moment to acknowledge how much you have already, and then consider doing something for those less fortunate. Donating some of your time is really the best way to get into the holiday spirit, and what you give does come back to you tenfold.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.