Community Cheer With or Without COVID

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Like many of you, I enjoy a Hallmark movie or 12 this time of year. Yes, they all follow the same basic storyline and you can basically guess the ending a few minutes into the show but if you’re like me, one of the main appeals of these shows is the quaint small towns they are based in. These charming towns are so cozy and cheery and full of generous and kind people. Though I’m sure it can be annoying when everyone knows your business, the community aspect of these locations sounds wonderful to me. Sometimes it seems surreal that these places really exist anymore but I think home is what we make it. How do we make our neighborhoods and communities feel closer? We get to know our neighbors, broaden our circles, and include friends and family when possible! This time of year is perfect for reaching out, spreading cheer, and bringing that old-fashioned town feel back! I feel like we are all needing that cheer more than ever with the crazy year we’ve had! I know, COVID keeps doing everything it can to throw a wrench in all our plans and I hate it too but, we just have to get more creative!

‘Tis the season to be jolly so I thought I would share some ideas to bring joy to those around you! Talk to your friends and family, neighbors, and co-workers. Make sure they are doing ok and see what you can do to make their holiday season a little brighter. Don’t presume because you know they have family in the area that they have somewhere to go to celebrate the holiday festivities. Not all families get along and holidays make this worse for many. Be brave and invite over the new family down the street for dinner or games (according to social distancing guidelines, of course). Hold a virtual holiday crafting day where you make something to brighten your homes together. Send out Christmas cards, be a secret Santa, buy a meal for an ill family in your neighborhood, invite some friends over for pie. Host a neighborhood football game the morning of Thanksgiving at your local school. Rally up your neighbors to buy someone a plane ticket who hasn’t been able to go home for years. Many people are cooking holiday meals for the first time this year, share your best tips or invite them over when possible. Have a snowman building contest on your street. You won’t know unless you reach out what needs are right there on your street. There are so many ways to reach out and uplift this year!

Sometimes it is easier to see needs through service organizations aimed at helping people in other countries but there are so many who need our help right here in our own community. We won’t know their needs if we don’t even know our neighbors. I am just as guilty as anyone else as I don’t know all of mine but we can change that. I am amazed by the generosity of our community but often hear people say they don’t know where and how to best serve and donate. I think most of us really want to make a difference and hate the thought of anyone going without for the holidays. Reach out to your closest schools and ask them how you can best serve the needy families in your area. Make hygiene kits for the Humanitarian Center. Buy coats, gloves, or boots for kids at your child’s school.  Donate to a toy drive. Go caroling with family and friends.  Adopt a Classy 97 angel. Take some hot cocoa and cookies (store-bought is best) to a firehouse or police station in your city. Our school district was given a grant to pay for students’ lunches but if yours wasn’t, paying off a few lunch balances is a great way to serve. Buying needed school supplies like headphones to contribute is also so helpful. Ask a Bishop or Pastor of a local church for needs in their congregation. Donate time at the food bank or soup kitchen. Support a friend’s business.  Pay for the car behind you at a drink shop or fast food restaurant. Visit with a neighbor who is lonely. Send out a cheerful text to a friend, or even better, brighten their day with a phone call.  Learn new traditions and celebrations from your neighbors. Get to know what the needs are all around you.  If each of us works on bringing holiday joy to one person or family this holiday season, it will bring us all closer together and that is exactly what the world needs now.

Expand your table this holiday season, get to know the people around you, and help where you can. It doesn’t take much for each of us to do our part to warm another’s heart. You might be surprised how much brighter your holiday season will be when you serve and include others.

Let’s spread some cheer and bring back that community feel here in East Idaho, maybe we’ll see our own small town in a Hallmark movie one of these years.