The holiday season is once again upon us!  The one thing I really love about Christmas, is that warm and fuzzy feeling you get every time a complete stranger wishes you a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.  It’s like we are all in this together!

The long line ups at Chapters and Best Buy, the horrendous traffic, the mad rush to bake and decorate … and the anxiety over choosing the right gift.  We always get through it because we cherish those few precious times of the year when everyone is truly committed to being kind to one another.  I wish it could last all year long … the feeling that is!

Back to the gift giving.  Many of you have already finished your holiday shopping or in the thick of it.  If there is one thing I have learned in the past year, it’s that a gift can also be something you don’t have to buy … nope, it won’t cost you a penny but will certainly bring a smile.  I’m talking about the gift of your time.  I know … I know … time is probably one of the hardest things to give, but it is also one of the most precious and sought after possessions.

Spending time with your friends and family in a meaningful way takes a bit of effort and some good planning.  What is harder, is devoting time to those whom you do not know.  Volunteering your time could be the best gift you’ll ever give.  It could be as simple as shoveling an elderly neighbours driveway, helping deliver toys and food baskets to needy families, spending time visiting isolated seniors or those who live in a nearby retirement residence, helping serve holiday meals at a local shelter or inviting a person who lives alone without family to your Christmas dinner.

Sure, donating cash to a local charity or a cause you believe in is always appreciated, but your TIME is a gift that will create memories, put smiles on faces and fill hearts with love, togetherness and hope.  Volunteering also has hidden health benefits according to chapterthree.ca, who has also compiled a list of volunteer opportunities in Ottawa.  In a paper published by Harvard Health, authors noted that volunteers benefit from something they call the “happiness effect.” It turns out that weekly volunteering leads to happiness levels comparable to a life-changing salary boost. By enjoying your time spent in service to others, you’ll feel a sense of meaning and appreciation—both given and received.

One of my favourite Christmas shows is How The Grinch Stole Christmas – “What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come in a store?  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”

Reach out … give the gift of YOU this holiday season.  Sing along … Welcome Christmas!