December 15, 2009

Another Take on Gifts that Give Back

I love the idea of gifts that give back, and had fun over the weekend perusing all of the gifts that give back sites that Britt Bravo listed on her Have Fun Do Good blog.

What struck me as I perused these lists, however, was how many were actually "things" - kind of a reverse of what happens when you respond to your local pubic radio station's regular campaign. With public radio, you give money and get a mug, a CD, an umbrella. With these gifts, you buy something and whoever is selling that something makes a contribution to something worthwhile. Yes! I will do this whenever possible.

While we're in the gift-giving mood, I want to share another take on gifts that give back. What about gifts that give back right in your own community? And what about gifts that don't even require money but will give back for years? What about the things you DO rather than the things that you buy? What about thinking of all the ways that you can create a sense of community on your block and in your neighborhood as gifts of hospitality - gifts that strengthen the relationships that people can turn to when they need a hand and the friendships that enrich our lives?

I wonder if we put enough value on the things we do, especially if those things are right there on our block and aren't thought of as "volunteering". I think, however, that the gift of hospitality is the most powerful and meaningful gift that anyone can give. And it's at the heart of big thinking on small grants - with small grants as a vehicle for honoring, encouraging, and supporting the acts that join people together right on their own block.

So in that spirit, here's my list of holiday gifts that give back all year, right in your own neighborhood:
  1. Ask someone you wave to but don't really know over for a cup of coffee.
  2. Be the spark that gets your neighbors together to decorate your street (mailboxes, light posts, front porches).
  3. Host a holiday block party (make it quirky and fun - best done when everyone chips in with an idea, see previous post).
  4. Organize a neighborhood cookie exchange.
  5. Give coupons for small neighborly favors, such as picking up mail or newspapers when neighbors are out of town (coupons will send the signal that you won't regard this favor as an imposition).
  6. Make a simple "map" of your block, and write in names and phone numbers of your neighbors. Share as an insert in a holiday card.
  7. Organize a neighborhood baby-sitting co-op that give parents baby-sitting support over the holidays and then other day to day obligations (and help neighborhood children get to know each other).
  8. Help an elderly neighbor put up her Christmas tree or holiday lights.
  9. Connect with 3-4 neighbors to start a neighborhood walking group, and up your chances of sticking to your "move more, sit less" New Year's Resolution.
  10. Team up with a neighbor for a holiday meal.

What are some other gifts that give back that have to do with strengthening the fabric of community right on your block? Join in by posting a comment.

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