Giving of Ourselves

Giving of Ourselves

By Jan S. Gephardt

Sometimes the best way to beat supply-chain issues is by giving of ourselves. If that sounds so sweetly altruistic you can’t even stand it, please hold on. Don’t give me an eye-roll just yet!

Last week I wrote about solving supply-chain issues for holiday gift-giving by focusing on locally-available goods. And especially those bought from small, locally-owned businesses. But the smallest, most local resource at our disposal is right here in our own homes, inside our own skins. It’s us.

And there are all kinds of ways to give of ourselves that don’t involve huge sacrifices of time, labor, and money. Actually, giving of ourselves in the ways I have in mind often are fun to do. And many are cheaper than buying more traditional stuff. So hear me out.

Handmade fiber art from G. S. Norwood: crochet, quilt, and knitting.
My sister G. S. Norwood gets crafty in several fiber art media: L-R, my daughter’s terrier Anika approves of her crochet project (on my bed); a “Log Cabin” quilt she created more than a decade ago; the beginning of a cable-knit project from 2020. (Photos by Jan S. Gephardt; G. S. Norwood).

Our Crafty Side

Many of us do not believe we are creative or artistic, but don’t sell this one short. There are many ways to create cool stuff without having to be Picasso or Mozart. Last year my sister wrote about her needlework and gardening, along with other “lockdown pastimes” people developed. The post is Get Crafty! (exclusively on The Weird Blog).

Perhaps you, too, have honed some skills during lockdowns. I’m not only talking about knitted booties or crocheted afghans, either. Do you know great recipes to share? Print up a little collection of them to slip into a holiday card. Suddenly, you have a nice little gift! It’s practical and tasty, too! Not to mention economical.

Four examples of hand-decorated wrapping paper.
How to make hand-decorated wrapping paper? at left, Marian Parsons used stencils (top) and stamping. At right, Morgan Levine made simple prints using a pencil eraser (top) and a wine cork (see credits below).

Giving of Ourselves by Adding Flair to the Delivery

Maybe we have a gift package, but we want to give it with extra style. Giving of ourselves by adding personal touches requires some imagination. And maybe a little paint or fabric, etc. Back in 2016 I ran a series of four blog posts about crafty wrapping strategies.

One post offered Five Slick Tips to Make Our Own Wrapping Paper. None of them required artistic talent, though a good eye for color and design helps. Stencils and stamping strategies meant no drawing skill required, though you will need craft paint, possibly glue, construction paper, and a few other household items.

Fabric of the Imagination and Repurposed Wraps offered clever on-site recycling suggestions for old boxes, tins, fabric, ribbon, and much, much more. While Does Your Gift Wrap do Impressions? suggested some themes one could explore.

Stage play, kids at a zoo, and historic steam engine.
A stage play, trip to a zoo, or a ride on a narrow-gauge train are only a few ways to give and share experiences. (See credits below).

Beat Supply Chain Issues by Giving Experiences

A less homemade “giving of ourselves” approach is to give our loved ones well-chosen experiences. Perhaps they’re excursions to enjoy together, such as a zoo or amusement park trip with a child. Sometimes the greatest gift is spending time with someone you love.

But even if you’re separated by vast distances, there may ways to place someone’s wished-for concert tickets in their hand. Or to give them an admission pass to a place you know they want to go. In an age when we can buy tickets online, tickets to practically anything – anywhere – can be had. Concerts, plays, restaurants, parks, zoos and aquariums, nature centers, and museums are within reach practically everywhere. We just need to keep the recipients’ tastes and preferences foremost in mind!

Respite care and yard work photos.
L-R: Offering help with caregiving, joining a yard crew team (this is Madrona Group Real Estate’s team, center), or helping a neighbor rake her leaves are all great ways to give of ourselves. (See credits below).

Giving of Ourselves through Our Service

While we’re talking about spending time with those we love, I’d be remiss if I said nothing about gifts of service. Giving of ourselves in service to someone else’s need is a profound – and often profoundly pleasant – thing to do.

Giving of ourselves through individual services, such as babysitting, pet-sitting, or offers of respite for caregivers can make a huge difference for someone in need of help. We may have someone on our list who needs this kind of help.

Do you know someone whose leaves you could rake? Perhaps an elder or sick neighbor whose drive or walk you could shovel when it snows? Letters or groceries delivered to their door, gutters cleaned out, a ride to an appointment . . . We may never know how deeply they appreciate it, until years later. When it’s our turn to be on the receiving end.

Charitable giving opportunities abound.
There are many ways to give to charity. Boxing Day and Giving Tuesday offer special opportunities. But whenever you give, I suggest Charity Navigator as a good guide. (See credits below).

Giving of Ourselves through Donations

Volunteering through agencies or organizations is another way that giving of ourselves can help others and benefit our community. And as I noted in my post “The Value of Volunteering,” making a difference in someone else’s life is a satisfaction few other pleasures can match. We should start early with teaching our kids this joy, too.

Some of us may have people on our lists who “have everything,” but who might be touched and honored if you dedicate a donation of gifts or services in their name.

Donations don’t always have to be of money, although that’s often the first thing we think of. And it’s certainly true that money is always the right size, the right color, and the right flavor. We don’t have to wait for special days such as Giving Tuesday or Boxing Day, although we may be able to compound our gift through matching funds on such days. We also might consider setting up a monthly gift for a special cause that we or an honoree on our gift list would really love to support .

Household donations, a child hair-donor, and a blood donor.
There are ways to give of ourselves that literally cost nothing—but some might just save a life. (See credits below).

Giving Literally of Ourselves

Donations in kind are also often greatly appreciated by recipients who need them, and the holidays are a time when many of us do most of our charitable giving. Donate gently-used clothing or housewares and toys to thrift stores that support charitable organizations. Donate food to food pantries (give them things you would like to eat, or choose from a list of most-needed items). Also consider paper goods, and other household necessities. Diapers and feminine hygiene products are always needed!

While we’re giving of ourselves, don’t forget we can donate blood (through the Red Cross or a local blood bank) or other tissue and literally save someone’s life. Those with long hair like me can ask our hairdressers to help us donate some of our hair. And, each time we renew our driver’s license, we can make sure we’re registered as an organ donor! Once we’re done using them, parts of our bodies can make a world of difference for someone else. What better way to say “goodbye with love”?

A word cloud of “Thank You” in many languages.
No matter how you say it, “Thank you” is a message all of us appreciate, but we hear it too seldom. (Image by “dizanna” via 123rf).

Giving of Ourselves Through Gratitude

Even for someone who’s not normally much of a writer, there are two kinds of writing that any literate person can do. First, we can write (and tell and show) the people we love how very much they mean to us. We should tell them what we love about them. And tell them why we think they’re special. Second, we can write sincere “thank yous” when they do something for us or give us something.

In this hurry-up world, people don’t get thanked enough. We should try to remember to thank the harried sales clerk who helps us find what we’re looking for. And thank a person who does a thoughtful thing for us.

We should thank the front-line workers who stock our groceries, deliver our mail and packages, or pick up our trash. Once again, I’ve written blog posts that may be helpful. Take a look at “Three Creative Ways to Thank a Veteran,” “Three Great Ways to Thank First Responders (Plus a Suggestion),” and “Another Way to Thank a First Responder.”

The Opportunities are Endless

Giving of ourselves is far more than just a simple strategy to beat the supply chain issues of the moment. This kind of giving can become our joyous offering to the world. We must find the ways that work best for us. There’s a special niche for which each of us is uniquely best-suited. And when we find it, it’s fun and rewarding to make giving of ourselves a lifelong habit.

IMAGES

Many thanks to G. S. Norwood, for the images in the first montage (originally published in her blog post “Get Crafty!”). Likewise, the full image credits for the second montage can be found in Jan’sFive Slick Tips” post on creative giftwraps. The ones in the montage are courtesy of designers Marian Parsons and Morgan Levine, who is now a celebrated ceramics artist. All montages in this post were collected and assembled by Jan S. Gephardt.

Photos for the “Giving Experiences” montage came from far and wide. Many thanks to “What’s on Stage” (London) for the Johan Persson photo from the production of Some Like it Hip Hop. We’re grateful to the Ft. Wayne, IN Children’s Zoo, via Vet Street, for the pic of kids with one of their giraffes. And the great photo of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge’s steam engine (with actors to add flair) comes from Nick Gonzales and the Durango Herald of Durango, CO.

Deepest appreciation to Visiting Angels, Darts, and Upworthy, for the “Yard Chores and Caregiving” photos. For the “Charitable Donations” montage, we thank Giving Tuesday, the BBC and Getty Images, Charity Navigator, and Checkbox Accounting. Finally, for the “Literally of Ourselves” montage, we thank Love to Know (in-kind donations), The FDA (donating blood), and “Still Playing School” for the three-part image of “E” donating her ponytail. And the “Thank You Word Cloud” comes from “dizanna” via 123rf.

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