Giving for the Holidays

By Madeleine Richey

We’re just getting into the Holiday season. Thanksgiving has just passed, and it seems that America has expended its capacity for thankfulness. As teens, we’re often prone to get wrapped up in the drama of daily life. The competition with friends can be fierce, and sometimes not all that friendly, when it comes to who has the newest technology, the most fashionable clothing, and the biggest haul on Christmas morning. But there are different ways to spend the holiday season than counting the wrapped boxes beneath the tree.

Time. It is often said that our time is the most valuable thing we have to give. I think this is true, so why not spend the holiday season with family and friends, instead of shopping for the perfect gift? They will remember the time they spent with you far longer and far more favorably than the gift you finally settled on.

Gifts. If you have to get someone a gift (for some of us, giving and receiving gifts is more important than it is for others) choose something they will use and enjoy. Gift a picture of a place or person that the receiver loves, or gift an experience. Take them to do something they’ve always wanted to do, or just go have fun with paintball guns, trampolines, bumper cars, ice skating, or other enjoyable activities. Or you can give them something hand-made that displays the time and dedication it took to make that gift, and that they were important enough for you to invest your time and effort in making it for them.

Volunteer. Don’t forget to give to the people you don’t know. During the holiday season the homeless don’t miraculously have homes, and their bellies are not suddenly filled with delicious food. The cold doesn’t disappear, and the hardships don’t become an easier. On the contrary, they become harder. It’s important to give back, so consider donating food, clothing, and/or your time. Serve a meal at a homeless shelter, visit the elderly, do something to spread the goodwill. Volunteering with family and friends is also a good way to set an example for others and to enjoy quality time with the people you love.

Getting gifts during the holiday season is not bad. Nor is giving gifts. It’s the thought that counts, so why not put a little more thought into it? Give something that really matters.

NOTE: Joshua Fields-Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of have published their thoughts on the holiday season and ways we can make it more meaningful, and that is where I got some of the inspiration for this piece.

Madeleine, 16, says: “I want to help people and I want to tell stories, especially the stories of people who don’t have a voice of their own.” Visit her blog at

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