12 Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer – We All Have Gifts to Give
By Karen Krejcha
The holiday season is a time for giving, sharing and spreading holiday joy. As the classic Andy Williams song goes,
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
For many in the autism community, this may not be the case. Some of us are feeling lonely and isolated. Others are missing a dearly departed loved one. Many feel the pressure of unmet expectations from ourselves or relatives. Changes in routine, crowded parking lots, long lines and tension around us create anxiety and sensory overload. We may experience overwhelming feelings of fatigue and burnout and fantasize about crawling into our bed under a weighted blanket and sleeping until it’s all over. Happiest season? Bah humbug.
Let’s try to change that. For ourselves, for our kids, for our families, for the sake of joy to the world, let’s make it different this year.
Let us do it by making a concentrated effort to show kindness and love to others. Let us be good to ourselves. The most wonderful gifts that we can give often aren’t those that can be purchased at a store. They are gifts that are sparked by thoughtfulness, selflessness, and compassion.
Don’t ever believe anyone who tells you that you have nothing to share. There is not one child or adult among us who does not have a gift to give. We all have gifts. Share yours.
Here are 12 ideas to spark the warmth in your heart. Most of them can fit into even the busiest of holiday schedules and are free or inexpensive to do.
1. Treat others kindly, the way you wish to be treated. Practice positive manners. When you’re out and about this holiday season, make a conscious effort to say please and thank you. Practice patience by letting someone go in front of you during a crowded store line or while in traffic.
2. Be a thoughtful friend. If you know someone who finds the holidays tough or you have a neighbor who is alone at the holidays, find a way to include them authentically. Invite them to your gatherings, or just spend some extra time with them individually. Be there when they need you, but know that if they prefer to be alone sometimes, that’s okay too.
3. Buy movie tickets and popcorn for another autism family. Many Regal Theaters offer monthly My Way Matinee sensory-friendly showings. The Regal Cinema Theaters in Vancouver, WA offers My Way Matinee the last Saturday of each month at 10:30 a.m. for just $3.95 per person. – www.regmovies.com
4. Thank your local first responders. Make cards for local firefighters, police officers and paramedics to show how much their work is appreciated.
5. Volunteer at a place that has meaning for you, perhaps an animal shelter or at a food pantry. Families in the Vancouver, WA area can join Autism Serves Kids Care Club, an inclusive volunteering group for youth on the autism spectrum of all abilities, siblings, peer mentors and family members. – www.autismempowerment.org
6. Write a letter to someone who has made a difference in your life. If you send holiday cards, take the time to include a personalized note. Expressing how you feel and how much they mean to you is a beautiful holiday gift.
7. Create a photo collage, memory book or video for a loved one. Highlighting happy memories shows that you value your joy.
8. Sing a song! Create holiday spirit and join or create a caroling group that brings your favorite holiday tunes to shelters, senior living facilities, children’s hospitals or adult care homes.
9. Draw and color pictures. Create smile cards. Write poems. Send messages of kindness and love to deployed soldiers and military families.
10. Start a “You’ve Been Elfed” tradition in your neighborhood. Sometime during the holiday season, secretly leave a bag or basket with a few goodies or treats along with an Elf sign and Elf poem explaining how to play the game. Ring the doorbell and run! (It is the best part! Even adults giggle! Really!)In turn, each recipient is asked to post a sign to alert would-be Elves that they’ve been Elfed, and to pass the game along to other friends or neighbors. As the days pass, look for elf signs in your neighborhood. If there is a family who has not been Elfed, be sure to include them, even Mr. Grinch and Mr. Scrooge. Find instructions and printables at http://bit.ly/getelfed or http://bit.ly/elfingisfun.
11. Perform random acts of kindness. Leave a note on a stranger’s vehicle wishing them well. Leave thoughtful post-it notes on the bathroom mirrors at school. Leave cheery messages in surprise places for teachers, parents, spouses, sons or daughters. Even yourself!
12. Donate anonymously. Whether it is clothing, food, toys or a cash gift to an organization you know could use the support, next time, try it anonymously. Appreciate how it feels. Anonymous giving is a beautiful tradition to share with and pass on to family members.
A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. ~ James Keller
For more inspiring ways to keep your candle lit during the holiday season and all year long, visit:
During a season when you may be feeling anything but jolly, a quick way to find happiness and joy is by helping someone else find theirs. When we give to others, we often receive a much bigger gift in return through the way we feel.
Whether you use these ideas or come up with your own, remember to tell yourselves, your children, your parents and everyone you meet that we all have gifts to give. Share yours.
This article first appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of Spectrums Magazine published by Autism Empowerment