6. Soup kitchens always need volunteers for Thanksgiving. In my area, the kitchens are closed on Christmas Day (so employees can spend the day with families), but volunteers are needed before and after Christmas Day.
7. Hospital visits can be heartwarming for both the patients and yourself. I have a friend who does this on a regular basis. Once a month she puts glitter on her face, grabs her magic wand and a bag of goodies (hairbands, friendship bracelets, matchbox cars, etc.) and goes to the children's hospital to bring cheer to sick children.
During my single years, one activity in particular brought me an incredible amount of warmth and happiness. I stopped by a local assisted living facility and asked if there were people there who wouldn't have visitors on Christmas Day. They said yes.
I told them I'd like to come by and visit on Christmas Day because I didn't have family in town either. At first, the staff was hesitant. They wanted to know how much I would charge. I explained there was no charge — I felt I would get back from their residents as much as I hoped to give to them. After a few more questions, they OK'd my plan.
The next week, I purchased inexpensive snowmen tea light candle holders, filled them with candy kisses (instead of candles) and wrapped each one in cellophane.
On Christmas morning, I arrived with my gifts in hand and was escorted to the library. About 10 minutes later, an elegantly dressed woman came in and sat across from me. We chatted about her amazing travel experiences. Soon after this, a man wearing a great hat arrived by wheelchair and joined our conversation, talking about his many fascinating careers.
As others joined us, the topic shifted to children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Pretty soon, the room was full and it felt like a party. Everyone loved the snowmen filled with kisses.
Later, the staff took me to visit those who couldn't come to the library. I went to the TV room, the craft room and a few guest rooms to hand out gifts.
Then I was escorted to the dining room and all my "new friends" wanted me to sit at their table — I ended up changing tables a few times during the meal. When I left at the end of lunch (and after many many hugs), I truly felt I had received 10 times more than I had given.
So, back to my single friend Pat. She called yesterday to tell me about her holiday activities. She's found four friends who also didn't have any plans. Two of the four friends have siblings in the same situation. The group has already set up not one, but two dinners together. And one of the friends has taken responsibility for finding neighborhoods with holiday lights and decorations.
I could hear the excitement in Pat's voice. I was thrilled to know there would be holiday magic for her this year. Starting to think about this now will ensure you have happy activities to carry you through the end of 2012. What treasure is out there, just waiting to bring you warmth and fulfillment this holiday season?