“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Buddy the Elf (from the classic Will Ferrell film Elf) offered this sage advice. But, thankfully, for those of us who can’t sing, there are other means of spreading holiday joy. Check out the suggestions below and embrace the warm fuzzy feelings reaped through simple acts of giving that promote a more compassionate world.
1. Give time
Both animal shelters and nonprofit animal rescue groups rely heavily on volunteers to ensure their animals’ needs are met. Let the volunteer coordinator know what your interests are, and they will be able to assign you responsibilities that you enjoy. Are you active? Ask to be a dog walker. Do you have office experience? There is always a need for administrative help. Are cats more your thing? There are sure to be kittens who need cuddling. If you have the time and resources, look into fostering, which relieves a burden from the shelters and rescues groups that struggle with space and limited resources. Volunteering in any capacity will not only improve the lives of homeless animals, but it will also make a positive impact on your life as well. Numerous studies have shown that regular interaction with animals can significantly reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and help regulate heart rate. During the rush and buzz of the holiday season, we could all use a little more joy and a little less stress.
2. Give funds
Instead of buying a gift for a loved one, donate to an animal sanctuary in his or her name. There are dozens of nonprofits that specifically offer gift sponsorships. Check out Farm Sanctuary, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, or Best Friends Animal Society to get started. Your donation will help provide the necessary care and resources for an animal in need, and your loved one will receive a personalized card and photograph of their “adopted” animal. Some organizations (such as Farm Sanctuary) even include visitation rights. It’s like getting a puppy for Christmas without having to take care of him or her. Win-win! For smaller dollar amounts, you could also support nonprofits by purchasing their swag. T-shirts and coffee mugs are typical fare. The organization can use the profit toward its animal rescue efforts, and they receive the added bonus of free advertising when your giftee wears the shirt or brings the mug along with them.
3. Give knowledge
One of the best things you can do for the animals is to go vegan. Spread the word of compassion by giving a documentary film or vegan-friendly book to your loved ones. Have a friend who is interested in the environment? Cowspiracy might strike a chord with them. What about a relative who constantly struggles with fad diets and weight-loss? They would appreciate a number of plant-based nutrition and lifestyle guides (Approaching the Natural by Sid Garza Hillman is a great start). Works by Marion Nestle are perfect for politicos (Eat Drink Vote is a great place to start), and there are hundreds of plant-based cookbooks for your foodie friends. Of course, it’s important to keep the message positive to avoid coming off as aggressive. Another option is to treat your friend to a delicious plant-based meal.
4. Give pie
Yes, a simple vegan pie can do wonders for ringing in the holiday cheer. Popularized in 2015 by vegan blogger Ashlae of Oh, Ladycakes, #pieitforward is a terrific way to give back to your everyday heroes, while getting in all your holiday baking. The idea is simple: make a few vegan pies and bring them to your local fire station on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This small gesture shows your appreciation to those who keep us, and our beloved companion animals, safe. Of course, don’t let the hashtag hold you back, as any type of vegan baked good will work. You could also donate to a local food pantry if that’s your thing. Ring in the holidays with a delicious-smelling kitchen and the pure bliss of giving.
Tanya Flink is a vegan, foodie, and certified Master Personal Trainer based in Orange County, CA.