12+ ways to gift it forward

Offering a gift or a kind gesture “just because” is a simple way to lift someone else’s spirits, while lifting your own at the same time. To help you think about how you and your family might want to “gift it forward” this holiday season, here are a dozen ideas other families have tried and loved in real life.

“We buy Tim Horton’s gift cards and my kids hand them out to homeless people on St Catherine’s Street in Montreal on Christmas Eve. They get the card and if they want an Xmas hug.”

—Jo-Anne Wallace

“We gather a hamper to give to another family, we pre-make some meals and deliver to senior neighbours on our street, we have in the past put together make-up/sanitary bags for women in shelters, served food at various Salvation armies and promote jump to help (looking every day in the moment where you can help). Holidays are my jam! It’s all kinda my happy place to give back.”

—Jennifer Powell

“Our three kids themselves initiated the no-Christmas-gift idea into our house a few years ago. It was we older folks who resisted!”

—Peter Carter

“My kids have to take a portion of the money they get from relatives and ‘shop’ on behalf of other kids on a charity website.”

—Nadine Araksi

“Elle and I, no matter what our circumstance, always sponsor a kid for Christmas. These children are looking for necessities – hats, boots, etc. – which helps remind us how lucky we are. Elle picks out the items and we add some toys to sprinkle a little joy as well. It’s a great lesson for my daughter that it’s not about the presents!”

—Olga Tirsalis Brilant

“We donate toys to a hospital’s pediatrics ward. Some of their toys get very well used. We top up parking meters. We pay it forward in line at Starbucks. And last year I paid for diapers for a mom ahead of mine in line whose debit didn’t work.”

—Danielle Christopher

“We gather new toys from clients and save up for new toys throughout the year. We call it our Kindness Mountain. It’s our fifth year doing this as a family. Last year we filled five families tree. We also volunteer at our grocery store for the local food drive.”

—Tammy Mitchell

“We sponsor a family with kids and we drop baked goods and chocolates in our senior neighbours’ mailboxes.”

—Louise Gleeson

“I’m a serial volunteer year round but at the holidays I add in more – I sort toys and food for my community’s Santa fund, I take my pathfinders caroling at a senior’s home, I help with tree decorating and other seasonal things at the local senior’s apartments, and I do an advent calendar where I do something for another person (or animal) every day leading up to the 24th.”

—Jenn Annis

“We bake Christmas cookies for teens who have left foster care and are living independently. The holidays can be a lonely time for them, so these home-made cookies are a reminder that someone cares.”

—Teresa Pitman

“We buy pyjamas for a social worker friend to pass along to the kids in the families she works with.”

—Valerie Howes

“I paid for a young man’s prescription at the pharmacy.”

—Sandra Clarke

“Each year I take the kids to physically carry toys and place them at the donation drop-off spot at the mall. I want them to feel what it’s like to think of others. Some years were hard when they were young, especially when the toys we donated were ones they’d asked for on their Christmas lists! (They were going to get the toys on Christmas morning, but they didn’t know that at the time).”

—Jacki Yovanoff