Giving thanks by giving of self


Have you been in a store lately?

If you have, you’ve noticed that the Holidays are here. Now. Not in 6 weeks, but in less than two. The trees, the cornucopias, mistletoe, The Macy’s Christmas commercials have taken the stage front and center. In a few weeks, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S. It’s my favorite holiday. No gifts, no pressure, just food, family and friends -easy breezy.

Wikipedia says that Thanksgiving Day is a harvest festival. Traditionally, it’s a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general. As a country we’ve had a tough year; millions of people are currently unemployed. For many of us, it can be hard to stop worrying about the future and focus on how much we have received and show appreciation for it. A large body of work has suggested that people who are more grateful have higher levels of well-being. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships. Sign me up for that team!

What better way to give thanks this holiday season than to volunteer? I do not think it’s enough for us to feel gratitude. It’s the expression of this feeling that matters.

Let me offer up a few tips and opportunities that you might find helpful as you think about volunteering as a way to express your gratitude.

Find the Right Opportunity

Find the opportunity that suits you best!

  • Choose a cause that you’re passionate about.
  • Find an opportunity that matches your skills, interests, and schedule. If Thanksgiving Thursday does not work for you (as you need to cook a gourmet dinner for 20) maybe the Friday before could better fit your schedule.
  • Follow up promptly with the nonprofit after you’ve referred yourself to an opportunity. There are lots of great folks looking for an opportunity and if you do not follow-up promptly your spot could be taken.

Be a Great Volunteer

Part of having a great volunteer experience is your ability to be a great volunteer. These basic principles are good to keep in mind:

  • Be professional.
  • Honor your volunteer commitments.
  • Extend gratitude to an organization for any training or professional development you receive while volunteering.

So now that you know you do want to volunteer, how do you find the right opportunity?

Look in your backyard: Is there something going on locally where you can plug in? Maybe the local school is planning a work day to revitalize the school building; the American Red Cross is collecting supplies for a local or national disaster; or your church is going to rake leaves for some elderly residents.

The economy is impacting hunger in every community across this country. Many food banks are in desperate need of donations. One in eight Americans are currently at risk of hunger. You can use this link to locate a food bank near you to find ways that you can help.

Local communities of faith such as local churches and synagogues will also have opportunities to volunteer this holiday season.

Look across the water: The Internet is a great place to find local and even international service opportunities. Here are a few sites where you can search for ways to help:
Taproot Foundation
HandsOn Network

If you have plans to volunteer this holiday season, I would love to hear about them! Please share your story. If you know of volunteer opportunities and want to get word out to potential volunteers, send me an email at

Take away: Marianne Williamson once said that “Nothing liberates our greatness like the desire to help, the desire to serve.” Start by finding the right opportunity and then liberate your greatness through service!

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