Every year it seems like the ‘holiday season’ starts earlier and earlier. From the Halloween decorations coming out in July to the Christmas movies starting before Halloween, it’s pretty safe to say the ‘holiday season’ is no longer just December. Whether you find yourself walking around grumbling ‘bah humbug’ by the time December finally rolls around, or secretly watching Christmas movies on Hallmark channel while carving jack-o-lanterns, it’s unavoidable.
But maybe it’s not such a bad thing.
I’ve always found that people are generally kinder to one another during the holiday season. Despite the stress that comes with juggling shopping for gifts, putting up decorations, being with family a lot more, and trying to stay focused to close out the year at work, people are just nicer during the holidays – they show more compassion and empathy.
I myself tend to tip my pizza delivery guy a little extra than I normally do. When the cashier at Petsmart asks me if I want to purchase a stuffed animal for $5 to donate to Toys for Tots, I happily oblige. I have a little more patience for other drivers on the road, and I find myself waving and smiling to people more. There’s just something about the holidays that makes me want to be more generous and to help spread some holiday spirit.
At GutCheck, we pride ourselves on being a human-centric company that is grounded in empathy. I know firsthand that this extends beyond our mission statement and helping our clients, to the ways in which we interact with one another and how the leadership team operates. For instance, this year as a special gift for the holidays, the company decided to give us each a gift card to treat ourselves, but also an extra gift card to donate to a charity of our choice to encourage us each to bring empathy into our holiday plans. But knowing my coworkers, without a doubt this is something that’s already a key component of their holidays, so I decided to ask them how they spread kindness this time of year.
“I help coordinate a collection at my son’s school for toiletries to distribute to local homeless people. Not only does it help those in need, but the kids get to experience the importance and joy of giving.” – Jess Sales
“I stop by a restaurant and purchase a meal for a homeless person that is less fortunate.” – Anonymous, Sales
“This time of year is especially busy for our family, and my mom has historically taken on so much of the responsibility. As our Family Chaos Coordinator, she hosts 3 different family gatherings in a matter of days (and at different locations). Add on the fact that her day job is to be primary caretaker for her two aging parents, and we often call her to step in to care for her grandkids when they get sick… My mom does it all. She got sick earlier this year, and the stress of managing it all just wasn’t fair; It was taking the fun out of the special time for her. I rallied our family to organize how we can all share more of this responsibility and take as much as possible off her shoulders. A few family-group texts later, with some assignments for who brings what, mom no longer feels like our Family Chaos Coordinator. A more relaxed vibe looks good on her, and I am hopeful her holidays feel fun, festive, and low stress.” – Shirey, Sales
“Donating holiday meals to those less fortunate.” – Anonymous
“I bake cookies with my parents and put together plates of them to share with our neighbors – it’s not any kind of organized cookie exchange, just a friendly and thoughtful gesture, and everyone is always so excited to get them.” – Anonymous, Marketing
“My two sons (9 and 4) and I went toy shopping to buy a few items to donate to a Toys for Tots drive our community is having. It was a great way to regain some perspective about our relative abundance and continue to help them understand that there are many kids that might not get much (or anything) for Christmas. This was such a sad scenario for them to imagine, and they got very serious about picking out a bunch of things so they could help other kids have a happier holiday. Because it’s such a tangible way to connect to the needs of others, I think it really resonated, and we’ll keep doing things like this as a family every year.” – Kelly, Product
“There are a couple things my family and I do to bring joy to others over the holiday season. We help with the toys for tots drive as well as select a couple families (through our church) that are in need that we purchase gifts for the children and meals for the family for the holiday.” – Lisa, Sales
“One of the ways that I bring empathy to the holidays is to get my kids involved. We go together to pick out presents for families who can’t afford their own gifts. It feels good to give to others and I love that my kids get to experience the joy of giving as well.” – KC, People Ops
“Our church runs a program where you can adopt a senior citizen – I know there are a lot of kids and families out there in need too, but I just love that they’re highlighting seniors who oftentimes get overlooked. We love picking out things that we hope will make them smile and feel appreciated.” – Anonymous
The theme across all of the responses is pretty simple – acts of kindness and generosity. It really is true that the joy of giving is far greater than the joy of receiving.
We desperately need more kindness and empathy in our world today, so to me, if that means I have to put up with hearing that Mariah Carey song earlier and earlier, I’m ok with it (let’s be honest, I’m already ok with it!) if it means that maybe people will be a little more giving and show each other a little more empathy more often.
I heard something recently that really stuck with me: “We have no idea that the smallest, slightest act of kindness or thing we can do for others can ultimately have a huge impact on someone’s life.”
Even if you’re feeling a little grinchy and are already ready for the holidays to be behind us, whether you decide to do something nice for a friend or neighbor, donate to a toy drive, or go the extra mile to volunteer your time to those less fortunate, I promise it will put a smile on your face and your heart will be full – not to mention the difference you might be making for someone else.
I, and everyone at GutCheck, wish you a very happy and joyful holiday season. Let’s all go out and spread a little extra kindness and empathy!