Over the years, I have tried to do give back in unique ways during the holidays.  I like to give in ways that bring surprise and delight to those that I'm helping - to somehow bring the magic of Christmas to someone that may have never experienced the wonderment and joy Christmas can bring.

Each year I think of a new way to share the spirit of giving, but I always follow a couple of rules:

- It must be anonymous.  I always give without attachment of my name - if I'm looking for credit, then it is not giving in the Christmas Spirit. 
- I must do it without reward.  This means that I don't even get to watch them experience the joy and surprise.  I know this might sound a little strange, but I believe that if I'm giving from a pure heart, the motivation should not be myself relishing in the reaction of the person receiving.  If I am giving to receive (in the form of joy), then it is a selfish act.  Also, if their reaction is not what I would've hoped, then I might be discouraged.
- I have to give up something, too.  It can be easy around Christmas time to spend, spend, spend and add up the damage in January.  When I donate, I consciously go without something I was planning to buy for myself of for someone else. 

It can be easy to write a check, but I encourage you to think about the act and method of your giving more creatively this holiday season.  Be sure to give in a way that honors the Christmas Spirit of good will and wonderment!

1. Shelter Santa

Mike and I usually set a spending limit for our gifts - about $100 or so.  We do this because we don't 'need' anything and it forces us to be creative rather than go buy something luxurious.  Last year, I decided to spend the $100 for his gift on toys, books and clothes to give to a shelter.  On Christmas Eve morning (when we exchange), I surprised him with a huge "Santa" bag (you'd be surprised how far $100 goes in the toy department at Target) filled with wrapped gifts.  We dropped them off at a shelter for families on Christmas Eve on our way to church.  He loved that I gave him the gift of giving - I'm lucky to have a husband that "gets it."

2. Surprise Santa

A couple of years ago, I had set aside my $100 to donate or give at my whim during the holiday season.  I kept it in my wallet and waited for the perfect moment to bestow it somewhere or somehow.  Before I knew it it was Christmas Eve and I still had that $100 bill.  I thought, who would really need this tonight?  I went to a Dollar General Store at 5pm and walked the aisles until I saw the perfect candidate - she was dressed in a uniform from work and she was looking at books for children.  I had been watching her before and saw which car that she had arrived in.  So, I went outside and put an envelope with the $100 on her windshield and I left.  I didn't want to hand it to her in person, because I didn't want to embarrass her.  I didn't wait around to watch her find it.  I just wanted her to have it.  I love this method because she didn't find the money until after she had checked out so I knew that she had purchased whatever she could afford and the money would be an extra cushion for her - however she needed to use it.

3. Holiday Baking Drop Off

We all get joy from eating a beautiful Christmas sugar cookie or a festive cupcake.  There is something special about treating yourself to something beautiful that was handmade just for you.  While they might not be one of the basic food groups or at the top of the food pyramid, baked goods that are made with love can definitely have a huge impact on someone without much delight or love in their life.  One year Mike and I delivered 2 dozen beautiful cupcakes to a homeless man on the side of the road.   I know it seemed like a random gift to give someone without a home or proper clothing, but when he opened the box his face lit up.  As we drove away he yelled to us, "I LOVE CUPCAKES!" in the happiest tone.  Maybe those cupcakes brightened his day just a little.