9 ways to roundhouse kick COVID this Christmas season

By Chuck Norris

“Coronavirus Drives Away Volunteers just as They’re Needed Most,” NPR reported earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. By this Christmas season, absent volunteerism has become an equal pandemic.

Julio Alonso, executive director and CEO of the Hoosier Hills Food Bank in Bloomington, Indiana, explained that students from nearby Indiana University usually help pack and distribute food, but they’ve been sent home because of the pandemic.

Alonso added, “In addition to those student groups, a lot of businesses come on a regular basis and volunteer for us as groups, and that has pretty much gone out the window.”

NPR further explained, “Amanda Chesney, who runs homeless and housing services for Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., is dealing with similar challenges and worries about the long-term impact as the crisis drags on. They’ve had to suspend volunteer programs that provide things like yoga classes and game nights, which might seem like luxuries but can be crucial for clients’ mental health.”

“Katie Fitzgerald, the chief operating officer for Feeding America, says their 200 food bank network has seen a huge increase – more than 60% – in the number of people showing up for help in recent weeks. But the number of volunteers has also dropped by 60%. On top of that, donations from grocery stores and other suppliers have dried up because of a spike in consumer demand.”

“For the emergency charitable food system in the United States, this is truly a perfect storm,” she said.

Several months ago, I wrote a column about the “7 dire consequences & collateral damages from lockdowns.” I missed one: all the good that could be done through volunteering and helping others.

The coronavirus has locked down more than businesses and households; the greatest damage are locked down hearts. Jesus predicted about the End Times: Because of the increase of pestilence, lawlessness, etc., “the love of most will grow cold.” What a sobering fulfillment.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Our concern doesn’t have to turn to callous. Our fear doesn’t have to freeze our love. The pandemic doesn’t have to paralyze our performing random acts of kindness this Christmas season or beyond.

I remember when our pastor shared, “You just weren’t created to consume and collect but to be a conduit of God’s blessings. You were born to a blessing.” But what about during a pandemic, when volunteer crews have turned into teams of the frozen chosen?

Here are what I call nine great ideas that can fight the freeze of volunteerism and warm the hearts of others at the same time this Christmas:

1. Franklin Graham’s charity, Samaritan’s Purse, will help you and your loved ones build and send (online without leaving your home) a box of small Christmas gifts for a child around the world. Their website explains, “Let us pack a box for you based on gift selections you make. Many of these shoeboxes are delivered to hard-to-reach areas. …” To start building your Christmas gift box to global needy kids, click here.

2. Speaking of kids, Martha Stewart’s website has some simple and great ideas you and your family can utilize to bless children this Christmas: “4 Ways You Can Donate Handmade Holiday Cards to Children.”

3. You can sponsor a holiday meal and #CelebrateWithAPlate through organizations like “God’s Love We Deliver.” Communications Associate Natasha Bunzl explained: “We try to make this season extra special for [those] who might experience heightened isolation or loneliness were it not for the joy that we deliver with meals, and smiles and hellos from volunteers and staff.”

4. Feeding America offers this idea: “Up the ante at your holiday game night with a fundraiser. Instead of collecting cans to drop off at a food bank this year, consider adding avirtual fundraiser to your holiday game night. Nothing brings out the holiday spirit more than a virtual food drive … and beating your friends and family at Monopoly! There are a lot of creative ways to make this tradition fun! Try offering special privileges (like a free card, more time to write answers, or an additional dice roll, etc.) to players who donate to your fundraiser. Or, for one game, let everyone know that whoever loses (or wins!) must contribute to the virtual food drive. Keep this new tradition going next year and stoke the competitive spirit in your guests by giving the person who wins the most games or donates the most a traveling trophy to take home for the year! We’ve got tips to make your fundraiser successful.

5. Do some Christmas cleaning around your home and storage facilities by clearing the clutter and dropping it off (or schedule for pick up) unwanted or unneeded goods, items and furniture to local Salvation Army Thrift Stores. You can clear the clutter and give some end-of-year tax deductible donations at the same time. Remember, your “trash” could be another man’s treasures this Christmas.

6. Honor and support U.S. troops during this Christmas season by one of the many avenues of sending care packages, sending Christmas correspondence, “adopt a soldier,” etc. Check out these many benevolent and patriotic options published by Focus on the Family.

7. If you’re healthy and don’t spend time around people with compromised immune systems, then don’t be afraid to mask up and follow charitable groups’ safety guidelines to help those in your local community. Contact your local soup kitchens, meal providers, shelters and family service agencies to help vulnerable individuals prepare for the colder months and also find joy and happiness around the festivities. For more information on ways to volunteer in your local community, visit volunteermatch.org.

8. For those people of faith like Gena and me, talk to your pastor or faith practitioner and ask if there’s a widow or widower who needs a phone call, some groceries or other errands run for him or her. Ask if they know of some practical need in someone’s life that you can safely meet, like cleaning up a yard, a house, putting up Christmas lights or decorations, or baking some Christmas snacks (healthy of course!).

Political science professor Ryan Burge said, “The average American doesn’t realize all the things that churches do to make society less awful.” Burge says especially younger, religiously unaffiliated people don’t appreciate the role of organized religion as a power for good. Burge says, “It’s one of those things where you don’t know what you had till it is gone.”

9. Lastly, you can also make a tax-deductible Christmas donation to lots of great charities or relief agencies. I would humbly include our own foundation, KICKSTARTKIDS, through which 60-plus of our amazing martial arts instructors teach character through karate to middle school students across our great state of Texas.

Two things I have learned for sure in this life: to count my blessings more than my burdens; and that when I focus upon being a blessing rather than being blessed, I am most often blessed with all the blessings I really need.

No wonder Jesus said, “It is better to give than to receive.” That’s so true, and even more so during a pandemic.

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