People are always looking for ways to give back whether it’s during the holiday season or throughout the year. This particular way dropped into my lap during a recent holiday season. Between the Colonel and me, we have four children. They are pretty good about letting us know what they would like to receive for the holidays, and we are pretty good about fulfilling their requests. This particular year was different. 

When I reached out to ask what was on their wish lists, my daughter said she didn’t want us to get her a gift. Instead, she requested we donate the money we otherwise would have spent on her to her friend’s family whose five-year-old son was undergoing chemotherapy. During this extremely stressful time for that family, my daughter wanted to do what she could to ease their financial burden. Inspired by my daughter’s request, we not only contributed money in her name to the family in need, but we similarly gifted our other three children by donating their gift money to causes of their choosing. Sometimes when you think your children aren’t listening and hearing your messages, they might surprise you.

During the holidays many people donate their time to soup kitchens and shelters. These are wonderful ways of giving back. What about during the rest of the year? Many shelters and soup kitchens need help year-round, as do dozens of other community organizations.

How do you regularly give to causes greater than yourself? This might take you back to your passion and ask yourself, “Beyond work or your business or career, what really lights you up?” If you are an animal lover, for example, you might enjoy volunteering for your local humane society. Perhaps teaching people to read is more your speed. Or, you might prefer to dedicate energy to social or humanitarian causes. The possibilities are endless.

Here are a handful of other ideas:

* Donate clothing, furniture, and other possessions to those in need.

* Raise money by participating in sponsored bike-a-thons, runs, or walks.

* If you aren’t physically able to participate in these athletic events, volunteer to help on the day of the event at registration tables or at the food, drink, or First Aid stations.

* Teach English as a second language as a literacy volunteer, or as a first language to kids or adults who need help.

* Tutor children in math or another subject.

* Remove trash from rivers or streams in your area.

Doing community service with your family and friends is a wonderful way to spend time together. Volunteering is good for your health and happiness. Studies have shown that people who volunteer live longer. Volunteering is also a terrific tool in the fight against depression because it can be easier to temporarily forget about your own problems when you shift your focus to helping others.

When you commit to something bigger than yourself, you are tapping into a vision that inspires you. Additionally, you are working with other like-minded people, either in person or virtually. The act of committing to something beyond you, your business, and your immediate family can help fill you up and generate enthusiasm you can channel into being a transformational leader.

To give back, pay it forward, or otherwise contribute to something beyond your daily life, you must intend to give without any expectation of receiving. It has been said that real generosity is doing something for someone who could never pay you back. Here are 3 ways that you can do give someone the gift of you, and, you don’t need anything other than being present:

1.Ask, “What can I do to help you today?” Then follow through. Do not keep track of your good deeds. You are serving simply for the sake of serving.

2.To demonstrate respect, give your full attention to the person speaking to you even if you are tempted to let your thoughts wander.

3.Leave a thoughtful comment on someone’s blog, not to promote yourself but rather to show them how they positively affected you.

In the wise and timeless words of Anne Frank, “No one has ever become poor from giving.”  

You likely will need to set boundaries. Otherwise you may find yourself giving so much that you have no time for yourself. Like everything else, take out your calendar and schedule the time you can give to others. Be realistic and don’t overcommit.

When I find myself being pulled in too many directions, I make a list of everything my hands are touching. Then I assess what must stay and what needs to be considered for release. While this is not always easy to do, managing my time well is what enables me to be present and available for what I most value in all aspects of my life.