I’m Sick Of Christmas Materialism – Instead Lets Make A Difference #actsofkindness

Every year, I’m asked what I want for Christmas. And every year, I fail to think of anything I really want.

Why? I don’t really need anything. As my grandfather once said about Christmas, “I don’t want anything. If I really want something, or I need it, I buy it. So if I don’t buy it, I don’t really want it.” My grandfather also used to say that why bother traveling if you can watch the Travel channel and get the same experience, so he wasn’t really big on spending money in general.

So this year, leading up to the holiday, I’m thinking of doing something different.

In Honor of Sandy Hook – And All the Recent Shooting Victims

Five years ago, on December 14th 2012, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary school. Twenty six innocent people died that day, including many small children. Parents who had sent their kids to school on a normal bus ride returned home from work to discover the unimaginable had happened.

Just this year, several other mass shootings have rocked our country. Las Vegas. Texas. Florida last year. And so on.

This is a personal finance site, so I’m not going to get into politics or thoughts on gun control. There’s plenty of other places on the internet you can go to find that kind of information.. No, instead I’m going to take a combination of my hatred of Christmas materialism, and desire to do something good in this world, and talk to you about 26 acts of kindness.

An idea that first took hold after the Sandy Hook shootings, 26 acts of kindness challenged everyone to perform some sort of kind act in honor of each shooting victim. It was first promoted by Ann Curry after the Newtown tragedy, and I participated that year doing random acts of kindness. I don’t think I got up to 26 (because I ran out of ideas), but between my husband and I we did quite a few things. We bought gift cards to be used by the cashier for random strangers in restaurants and coffee shops, brought donuts and coffee to hospitals and police stations, and did some other things as well. In fact when I did the gift card thing in my local Starbucks, I saw two people who must have been having a rough day burst into tears and hug each other when they heard their coffees were paid for by someone.

Ironically the number 26 also looks to be the number of innocent lives lost in the recent Texas shooting.  There were of course 58 innocent lives lost in the Las Vegas tragedy, so you could use that number if you’re moved to do this too.

What’s the idea? It’s simple – counteract evil, terrible acts with a series of deliberate kind acts. It could be as simple as helping a co-worker, buying a cup of coffee for the stranger behind you in line at Dunkin Donuts, or buying pizzas for the firefighters at your local fire station. They can cost money, or your time, or a mixture of both. You can track them for yourself, on your phone, in Excel, or in Word-or you can share them with the world on social media to inspire others to join in with you.

If I want to do twenty six acts of kindness for this holiday season, approximately one each day before Christmas day, I’ll need to start on November 29th. In the past, I’ve found I run out of ideas. So today I’m going to make a list, and will publish it on Twitter and Instagram to hold myself and my family accountable to finish all twenty six acts.

Since I live in Connecticut and Sandy Hook is under an hour from my house, I’ve chosen for my family to do 26 acts of kindness. Your list can be different, filled with more free or homemade options or more expensive options. You can have 5, 10, 26, 58, or more (or less!).

This is what’s on my list

I’ve tried to think of thinks we can do together as a family, so I can get my kids as excited about giving as they usually are about getting.  Several of these will be donations to the families of the shooting victims, or in honor of the victims of the Newtown strategy. Some will be to help others in my town, or help the hospitals/rehabilitation centers where my husband has spent so much time these past five years. Others will be simple random acts that hopefully will make a difference to someone. If you have some other ideas, I’d love to add them to my list-be sure to let me know in the comments.

Twenty six acts of kindness:

  1. Buy a gift card for Starbucks and ask the cashier to use it to buy people food/beverages until it runs out
  2. Buy a gift card for Dunkin and ask the cashier to use it to buy people food/beverages until it runs out
  3. Buy a gift card for McDonalds and ask the cashier to use it to buy people food/beverages until it runs out
  4. Pack a shoebox of toys for Operation Christmas Child
  5. Donate toys and clothing to a needy family
  6. Donate food to a food bank or Bread for Life
  7. Buy supplies for a domestic violence shelter
  8. Donate breakfast, or lunch/dinner, or desserts, with homemade thank you cards from the boys, to Firefighters
  9. Donate breakfast, or lunch/dinner, or desserts, with homemade thank you cards from the boys, to Police Officers
  10. Donate breakfast, or lunch/dinner, or desserts, with homemade thank you cards from the boys, to Hospital ER
  11. Donate breakfast, or lunch/dinner, or desserts, with homemade thank you cards from the boys, to Hospital ICU
  12. Donate breakfast, or lunch/dinner, or desserts, with homemade thank you cards from the boys, to school system
  13. Donate breakfast, or lunch/dinner, or desserts, with homemade thank you cards from the boys, to Nursing home
  14. Donate breakfast, or lunch/dinner, or desserts, with homemade thank you cards from the boys, to Local National Guard base
  15. Mail a gift card to a friend with cancer and his family, to help with the holidays
  16. Send a gift to a friend’s father, who had a silent heart attack and almost lost his leg due to blood clots (and likely has lost his livelihood)
  17. Visit a nursing home with the boys in Christmas outfits, and say hello to the residents
  18. Visit a nursing home and bring cookies for the staff
  19. Visit a nursing home and hand out homemade Christmas cards to the residents
  20. Buy dog and cat food for a local pound
  21. Clean up trash in a local dumping ground area
  22. Buy new children’s books for a disadvantaged school
  23. Buy a new board game (or two) and donate to a crisis center
  24. Donate to Sandy Hook Promise in honor of the shooting victims – one dollar for each victim
  25. Donate to Las Vegas Victims Fund in honor of the shooting victims
  26. Donate to Texas church memorial in honor of the shooting victims

I’ve gone over this list with my family and they all approve. It’ll be a family project involving the boys, and my husband is currently doing research and gathering the information we’ll need to be able to do all of this. I’ll be posting about each one on Twitter  and Instagram with the hashtag #actsofkindness to both hold us accountable as well as to encourage others to do their own kind acts.

You may wonder – what’s the point of this? Unfortunately each one of us as individuals can’t do much to impact larger societal issues that lead up to mass shootings. You can of course advocate for changes in laws you disagree with, or argue for more changes in how the mentally ill are treated to improve the chances of less of these in the future.

But rather than feeling helpless and throwing up our hands, we can recognize that there are things we can do. We might not have been able to stop the violence halfway across the country – but we can help make lives better where we are, we can support the victims’ families through donations, we can advocate for changes in laws/society.  We couldn’t stop the shooter from taking the lives of all those innocent children in Newtown, but we can make life better for other children.

You control the things you can control, and let go of the rest.

So I hope you’ll join my family, or at least follow along, as together we work to make a difference in others lives. Let me know in the comments if you have some kind of giving tradition, have other suggestions for kind things to do, or want to join in!

Postscript – After I posted this, some of my fellow bloggers have been inspired to talk about their own #actsofkindness. Thanks to Foreign Born MD for kicking off the chain! If you want to join in, just write your own post on this subject, and head over here to the Rockstar Finance Forums to help spread some kindness this holiday season. Or check back here often to see everyone who’s joined in!

Be sure to follow my blog for more great posts via e-mail or WordPress, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter and say hello! You can also check out what I’m buying or baking on Instagram,  what I’m pinning on Pinterest, or the latest books I’m reading (or want to read) over on Goodreads.

17 thoughts on “I’m Sick Of Christmas Materialism – Instead Lets Make A Difference #actsofkindness”

  1. This a lovely idea and thank you for sharing! We do a week of acts of kindness at the school where I work every year but I love the idea of doing something similar around Christmas time. Your list looks great too! How will you get the food items to the firefighters/nurses/police? Can you just turn up and ask someone to put it in their staff room? Good luck with the challenge, I know you and your family will enjoy it as much as the recipients will!

    1. I’m having my husband call them ahead of time to check and see how many people will be there, and what time of day/day of the week will be best. Before when we’ve done something similar we just dropped it off, and they always appreciated it.

  2. Awesome, Liz! For the last few years we’ve not exchanged gifts but have instead donated time and money to charity with 4-5 different transactions. We could easily perform acts of kindness throughout the season instead. I’ll definitely follow you along and let you know what we do with #actsofkindness

    1. Love your idea! I wish my family would do something like that, at least for the adults. None of us really need anything.

  3. Great post and great ideas! I like what REI has been doing with their #optoutside program by closing their stores on black friday to buck the madness. I think I’m gonna do one on your list this year and clean up trash at the park behind my house. That will let me be outside while I’m contributing something to the greater good!

  4. Such great points! As much as I love to give gifts during the holidays, for our family, the giving to those in need part of the holidays is our favorite part. We discovered a book a while back that encouraged us to write down everything we did for other people during Christmas on pieces of paper, and store them in a special box. Then, on Christmas Day, we take down the box and read all the gifts we’ve given to others that year–they’re the best gifts, in my opinion. Some of our favorite giving opportunities are to kids via Compassion International, the Red Cross, making meals through our church’s Feed the Freezer program, and the Syria Fund. Also, this year we’re really excited, because the mom of one of my ESOL students who’s a refugee from Puerto Rico has shared some families back in PR who need help. Our school and community are taking up donations to purchase Wal-Mart gift cards for those families.

  5. Last year my immediate family didn’t exchange gifts and instead donated the money to help a friend in need. This year, we’ve agreed to donate money in place of gifts again. I like the idea of throughout the month practicing acts of kindness. My hubby and I will talk through our list while traveling for Thanksgiving this week! Great post!

  6. What a wonderful idea!! It helps us feel that there is something we CAN do! And I believe it will inspire others to do kind acts as well. Way to go!

  7. Every time I see more people opting for charity rather than material items for Christmas, it makes me believe there can be hope for a better future after all. Keep it up!

  8. I very much hope that some day we can manage to convince our extended family to do charity work instead of buying gifts – I may hope in vain but nevertheless, I hope. In the meantime, our little family will be doing investing and charity for our own gift replacements, and it’s just about time for me to think over our annual allocations.

  9. Physician on FIRE

    I love your list, and hope you are able to accomplish each and every act.

    I am the same way with Christmas gifts. We’re trying to own less, not more.


  10. I use unbound and food for the poor as gift giving vehicles. Moms and aunts get a child through unbound. They virtually adopt those kids totally looking forward to receiving the update letters. Some of those kids have been in relationship with my mom for their entire school career. Brothers and sisters get my gift of goats and chicKen’s given in their name. A family gets a breeding pair of goats. The deal is once they get a little herd going someone else of their choice gets a breeding pair. My favorite gift to live is a well. If you give a village potable water the children have a chance if dysentery hits the village.

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