The Christmas season really brings out the best in people, but it can also lead you astray. Here’s help to remember to be giving ALL year…
By all means, give this holiday season. Volunteer, drop toys in the toy drive bins, throw change or a few notes in the Salvation Army Santaâ??s kettle. But keep these points in mind, too:
1. People need your help year-round
The toy drives your local organizations carry out are pretty successful. In December. When May comes around, though, shelters have little on hand to give out.
Sick kids in hospitals, children in battered womenâ??s shelters who have fled their homes in the middle of the night, and others might like a toy or two, but nobodyâ??s donating in the middle of the year â?? and most non-profits canâ??t afford to store their December bounty year-round.
The same goes for other forms of volunteering â?? there are homeless, disabled, ill, poor, and otherwise hurting people who need help year-round.
2. The recipients of charity are people with feelings, value, and dignity
Poor people donâ??t need the dregs of your life, whether in the form of your material cast-offs, or your time, emotion, and advice. Being poor means lacking resources, not lacking humanity â?? if you canâ??t connect with the people you aim to serve, as people, then nobody is the better for your alleged charity.
3. Consider the gift of autonomy
One of the resources most lacking for impoverished people is autonomy. The greatest hardship of poverty is the way it limits you â?? often in ways that create greater poverty, like the way stores in poor neighborhoods often charge higher prices than stores in better-off neighborhood, because the poor often lack the transportation options to make meaningful choices about where they shop.
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Think about the way you volunteer or give charity â?? is there a way you could increase peopleâ??s abilities to make their own choices, to follow their own paths, to develop their own abilities?
4. Only connect
Too often, people in a position to help hold themselves apart from the people they hope to assist. And no wonder â?? for the once-a-year volunteer, there is little time to get to know anyone, let alone really understand what their lives are like.

If you can, make a long-term commitment and open yourself up to the lives of the people your charity is aimed at. Get to know people face-to-face, as friends and colleagues and equals.
5. Forget you
Last but most important, remember, itâ??s not about you. Yes, it feels good to give, and thereâ??s no point in feeling guilty about that, but donâ??t do it because it makes you feel good, or because you earn points towards a merit badge or college credit, or because itâ??s part of your organizationâ??s charter, or for whatever other way that charity benefits you.

Do it because you must, because being a giving person is right.

And this year, instead of giving during the season of giving and then returning to your â??normal lifeâ? when you pack away the tree and lights, let the holidays be a starting point to a life of year-round giving.

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Sources: Lifehack November 20, 2009

About Dr. Mercola
Dr. Mercola founded one of the most visited health sites on the Internet, and has a practice, the Optimal Wellness Center, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. For more information visit