Isn't it something how the holidays have a way of inspiring us to want to do good deeds and be more philanthropic than we've been the other 11 1/2 months of the year? There must be something about hearing nostalgic music and repeated tidings of ''Peace on Earth...'' that brings out the best, most generous parts of ourselves. Whatever it is, it seems to work like magic.
I don't know about your community, but around here, folks come out of the woodwork weeks before the holidays to get their names on the lists for volunteering at soup kitchens and shelters for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. And from what I gather, most of them are turned away because there are simply not enough spots for the sheer number of people wanting to get involved. Instead, the charitable organizations that have to turn these would-be volunteers away say they'd much rather have these offers spread throughout the year. And with that, all the good intentions to share holiday joy with others less fortunate are oftentimes put on the backburner until the next holiday season rolls around.
OK, so we really might not have the time to volunteer throughout the year on a regular basis for organizations that need us dependably 6-8 hours a month, which is what so many of them ask. But perhaps there is something to be said for redefining ''philanthropy.'' Perhaps we can make our contribution by giving of ourselves simply through small kindnesses. Kindness on the road. Kindness to the person we finally talk to at the end of an interminably long phone tree. Kindness here and kindness there. In our own little worlds. Throughout the year.
My bet is that this kind of sharing of our best selves will give others -- and ourselves -- infinitely more peace and joy than heading to the soup kitchen one day a year for a couple of hours. This coming year, may we all recognize the daily opportunities to volunteer our hearts, as well as our time, and share the generosity of our kindness.