Make a Difference by Giving to Others this Holiday Season

I often talk about how important it is to reach out to others in love and service on a regular basis. But during the holidays, we need to be especially focused on giving, serving, and caring for people. I want to offer up a few ideas on how simple it can be to make a real difference in someone’s life this holiday season.

At our company’s headquarters, our “Giving Tree” is set up in the main lobby. We choose a couple of families in our local community each year who could really use a lift over the holidays. On the tree are gift tags for the family members—kids, teens, and adults—with requests for specific things they need or would like: slippers, a sweater or jacket, a certain toy or book, etc. Lots of our associates take one or two tags off the tree and return with gifts to be distributed to these folks who otherwise may not have expected much in the way of gifts this year.

Making a difference doesn’t have to involve money, though. Think of ways you can offer your time or talent. Bake cookies for people in a group home or halfway house. Get a group together to sing holiday songs at a retirement center. Spend a few hours serving meals at a shelter or working at a food bank—places that are extra busy this time of year.

Writing a personal note to someone you care about is another no-cost way to make a difference in someone’s life—especially if it’s someone on your list who “has everything.” A heartfelt note written to a parent, a sibling, or a long-distance relative or friend may be the most important gift they receive this year.

My good friend Colleen Barrett, former president of Southwest Airlines and my coauthor on Lead with LUV, is remarkable in many ways—and something she is known for are her thoughtful, handwritten notes. When Colleen was at Southwest, she sent out more than 1000 handwritten notes every year to staff and managers. She had spies everywhere! Colleen wrote notes for every reason—to celebrate work anniversaries, weddings, new babies, graduations—to sympathize when someone had been in an accident or lost a loved one—or to praise a worker who had gone above and beyond for a customer. Even though she is retired, Colleen’s handwritten notes of kindness to others continue to flow.

Remember: real joy happens when you get in the act of forgetfulness about yourself. Giving is not about you. Don’t give a gift because of how good someone was this year, or what they did to help you. Just give because they deserve it. And don’t serve because you expect something in return. Do it because you care, and because it’s the right thing to do. Your reward is simply joy—the joy that comes from giving.

So this holiday season, find a way to make a difference in somebody else’s life. Reach out to a family member. Reach out to a friend. Reach out to a neighbor. Reach out to a stranger. Because that’s what it’s all about. And when you do it, you’ll get into the moment. You’ll feel the joy. And you’ll realize that life really is a special occasion.

Refiring Spiritually: Working for the Common Good

Japanese meditation or zen garden simplicity , calmness and balaIn our new book Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, Dr. Morton Shaevitz and I talk about four keys. The first key, Refiring Emotionally, is about creating connection; the second key, Refiring Intellectually, refers to lifelong learning; and the third key, Refiring Physically, is about keeping active to improve your mental outlook.

The fourth key is Refiring Spiritually. When I begin to talk about this topic, people often assume it’s going to be about religion. But I’m actually referring to the universal sense of the word spiritual as the opposite of material things. Refiring Spiritually is about getting in touch with something important outside of yourself—looking outward instead of inward. I believe when people have an opportunity to focus outside themselves, they will work toward a higher purpose. After all, it’s hard to become stale, bored, or dissatisfied with your work or your life when you are doing something that serves the greater good.

As the Chief Spiritual Officer of our company, I leave a morning message every day to praise and inspire people. I want everyone in our company to hear when someone has accomplished a big goal or when someone needs a little help with achieving something personally or professionally. Leaders who provide opportunities for giving and spiritual growth help people understand that it’s not all about them.

For example, we have a self-organized team called Blanchard for Others that donates time and funds to help other charities in the community. In another program we call Blanchard Gives Back, every year we set aside a percentage of our profits and allow each of our people to designate a portion to go to a charity of their choice. We also encourage employees to take up to 40 paid hours a year to donate their time to charitable organizations. Do our people feel good about the difference they are making in the world? You bet they do.

In our book, Morton and I share a code of conduct that I think can help you find ways for your people to grow spiritually, too. Encourage your people to think about these statements from the perspective of their own working environment:

  • Be aware—See the big picture
  • Be forgiving—Give up being right
  • Be grateful—Count your blessings
  • Be accepting—Realize you’re not in total control
  • Be humble—Realize you’re not the center of the universe

It’s amazing what people can do when they work toward something bigger than themselves. Encouraging people to focus on the greater good works in our company—and I think it can work in yours as well.

RefireTo learn more about Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, visit the book homepage where you can download a free chapter.