In too many ways, 2016 has been a rough one for America.
Way too many of our favorite celebrities died. We suffered a great deal of loss at the hands of Mother Nature. And now, this — we're capping off 12 tumultuous months with the end to maybe the most divisive, mind-boggling election in U.S. history, and many people have been left anxious about the prospects of President Donald Trump.
As we move into the holiday season, thinking about giving back and being thankful, there are a few things America desperately needs now as we all prepare to move into 2017.
Here are six gifts you can give America this holiday season:
1. The gift of more digital and print newspaper subscriptions to keep Washington (and Trump) honest and citizens informed.
Votes aside, no election is influenced by just one factor. But this election in particular felt the brunt of fake and misleading news on social media and cable news coverage that focused more on style than on substance.
Newspapers, on the other hand, provided some incredibly thoughtful and important reporting on the election and the state of our country — from Trump's questionable history paying federal taxes to Hillary Clinton's complex time as secretary of state. The more newspaper subscriptions we have at our fingertips, the better. Give the gift of a newspaper subscription (or share your subscription with a friend), and the entire country becomes a better informed place to be.
2. Give the gift of an LGBTQ community that understands they are all of value, no matter who they love or how they identify.
Last week, as it became clearer Trump will be our next president, calls to suicide prevention hotlines for the LGBTQ community spiked. Tragically, it's not all that surprising — Trump and vice president-elect Mike Pence are peddling possibly the most anti-LGBTQ platform in party history.
We can also support groups like The Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign to make sure the voices of our LGBTQ friends and family are elevated and prioritized, even if a Trump White House likely won't be listening.
3. The gift of making immigrants feel right at home in their new country.
Building a wall became a cornerstone in Trump's campaign. Our president-elect has threatened to deport millions of people and has demonized millions more. Many immigrant children and families are understandably afraid, left feeling as though their country doesn't want them here.
But organizations like Soccer Without Borders want every kid to succeed in America.
The U.S. branch of the nonprofit — based in Oakland, California — uses soccer as a catalyst to unite kids from various backgrounds and different countries through sport. The group provides educational support, creates community service opportunities, and has a great track record at helping empower kids toward academic success.
We can also support groups like E4FC, which connect young undocumented immigrants to the legal and academic resources they need to achieve their goals, and Voto Latino, which empowers Latinos to become agents of change in their communities.
4. Give the gift of a green Earth that will stay habitable for centuries to come.
Soon, we'll have a president who's called global warming a hoax invented by the Chinese. That should be terrifying to anyone who wants their grandkids to live on a beautiful planet.
Let's not beat around the bush — we need to do a lot to combat climate change, and we need to do a lot now. We can pressure our legislators to support clean energy, do our own part to live an eco-friendly life, and — maybe the easiest one — plant more trees.
Through conservation nonprofit American Forests, we can gift new trees to plant on behalf of others, and help offset our collective carbon footprint. Each tree costs just $1 to be planted, so you can see how a $25 or $50 gift can certainly grow into a huge impact.
5. The gift of security for every person seeking to access their right to an abortion.
Trump — who once suggested women should be "punished" for having an abortion — has vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices who would flip Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that confirmed a person's right to choose. This means well-funded and accessible clinics are more important now than ever before.
The Clinic Vest Project is one group helping clinics like Planned Parenthood do their work by providing vests, like the one seen above, to the friendly human shields that escort women from their cars to the facility entrance, oftentimes through aggressive protesters. That walk can be a painful and intimidating experience for someone who might already be in a vulnerable state, so these helpful, supportive people — wearing colorful vests to show they're an ally — are crucial.
6. The gift of more diverse children's media — because representation matters, now more than ever.
Kids are feeling anxious and uncertain on the heels of the election — especially children from groups that have been mocked or criticized during the campaign, like immigrants, Muslims, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ people. It's important we reassure them that, yes, they are loved and that we're a society that values diversity and inclusion.
Children's books that make this point clear — like "Promised Land," which follows the interracial love story of Prince Leo and his farm boy crush, Jack — should be in playrooms and classrooms across the country.
Diverse kids' media shouldn't be confined to books, though — film, toys, and TV series are just as crucial. Shows like Nickelodeon's "The Loud House" and coloring books like "Dream Big! More than a Princess" can be awesome tools that encourage our children to be confident in who they are and understand that they matter.
America has always been the sum its parts. The combined contributions of those of us who live here are what makes it great. Let that inspire you to kick off 2017 with a clear head, a big heart, and a determined spirit.
No one's disputing that this year has been a rocky one in more ways than we'd care to admit. But we made it.
If you're on edge about what 2017 will mean for you and your loved ones under our new president, don't feel helpless — fight to make sure America stays true to all the values that make us the great country that we are.