7 wonderful reasons to give to strangers this holiday season.

The holidays are here in full force, so you're likely making your gift list and checking it twice. But is anyone on that list someone you don't know?

It might sound like a hare-brained idea ("I already have so many people to give to!" I can hear you saying), and I get it. But it doesn't take much to make someone's season brighter, especially if they're in need. Sometimes a simple scarf, a bag of Hershey's Kisses, or just a few much-needed toiletries can turn someone's entire year around. And isn't sharing with others the theme of the season?

We asked real people across the country about why they give gifts to strangers during the holidays. The responses may inspire you to start a new giving tradition of your own.


Krista McCord and her family join together to give homeless kids what they really need (and want) during the holidays.

Photo by rahmani KRESNA on Unsplash.

"My sister-in-law always shares a list of Christmas gift wishes from homeless teens," says McCord.  "It breaks my heart, because they're mostly asking for shoes and jackets and very few novelty items. We work hard to get everything on their list. I am so thankful that I am able to help. I also do a Toys for tots drive at work."

McCord's reason for giving is simple: "I give at Christmas because I can. I am thankful for what I have and that I am able to share," she says. "I want other people to feel like they are loved and cared about."

Wes Hough and his wife give so they can make the world a kinder place and set a great example for their children.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

"We live in Delaware, and it regularly gets  below freezing here now. Particularly at night," says Hough.

"This year my wife and I decided we're going to make scarves to tie to light poles for the homeless here," he continues. "I want to do something nice and positive since I feel like so much of our lives have been consumed by negativity lately."

"I'm trying to set an example for my children —especially my 6 year old — that selflessness and charity are admirable traits. My kids inspire me to be better."

Miriam Campos and her children make hats for babies to pass on the same kindness they were once afforded.

Photo by Echo Grid on Unsplash.

"In the next few weeks we will be delivering baby beanies made by my kiddos and myself to the three hospitals where my kids were born," says Campos.

"All three of the pregnancies were difficult, but the last one was the most memorable. Jonathan was hospitalized for 5 days due to having a fever a few hours after being born. He was moved to the intensive care and the staff there comforted him with a beautiful crocheted blanket made by senior citizens living in nearby facilities."

"We started the project last year, but we didn’t quite make them all on time so this year, The Campos family is coming to town!"

Alice Garibaldi and her husband adopt a family each year. Their reason? To let others know that someone cares.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash.

"We adopt a family in Pajaro, California each year," says Garibaldi. "The people we give to are usually migrant workers who have no work during the coldest parts of the winter. We provide clothing, toys, groceries and sometimes special wishes like a microwave. I coordinate this with a few friends and we really give them a Christmas to remember."

"I also give toys and food to our local resource center," she continues. "And I make donations to the humane society."

"I want to share what I have, and feel like life is so unfair," Garibaldi adds. "Why do some of us have so much and others struggle always?"

"I just want to help and show someone cares, even an anonymous someone. It's easy to focus on yourself and those you love. I try to spread the love and realize we all need help sometimes."

Jasmine Williams and her family have a different kind of tradition. Every Christmas, they show their appreciation and gratitude to service workers. And each year, they learn a little more about grace.

Photo by Kate Townsend on Unsplash.

"Every year, the night before Christmas Eve, my family picks a restaurant and goes out to dinner. No matter how good or bad our service is, we give our server a 100 percent tip," says Williams.

"Over the years, we've been to many different restaurants to celebrate the holiday tradition, but there's one I will never forget. I sat down at the table across from my mom and sister, the three of us already grinning as the waiter introduced himself. A few minutes later, he headed back over with waters while we read over the menu. Except, we never got a chance to drink them. Our waiter somehow managed to drop an entire tray of ice waters directly into my lap."

"My sister and I both assumed we were leaving to go home, but my mom told us we were staying. I couldn't believe she wanted to stay and eat dinner there, let alone tip the waiter at all. But our tradition only has one rule: we must tip 100% regardless of the quality of service we receive."

"As an adult, this is still my favorite holiday tradition because it has taught me an important life lesson in gratitude and giving others a little more grace. It's not a lesson that we could have learned from a self-help book, college class, or life coach. It's one that we had to learn through action. I'm grateful to my mom for starting the tradition and even for that tray of ice waters, which brought me that a-ha moment."

Samantha Torrez and her husband Pedro strive to lessen the burden that families feel — especially during the holidays.

Photo by Samantha Torrez.

"My husband Pedro and I live in Pittsburgh, PA, but he is originally from Guatemala," writes Torrez in an email.

"Each Christmas, we visit his family in Guatemala for the holidays. We host an event in which we distribute baskets full of rice, beans, soup, toilet paper, toothbrushes and other necessities to families in need in his hometown."

"Last Christmas, with our personal contributions and contributions of family and friends, we were able to provide 200 baskets. This year, we intend to provide 225-250 baskets. This project connects us and those closest to us to a group of people we have never met before but who we know are in great need. As Guatemala is the fourth most undernourished country in the world, the impact this project has on impoverished families is nothing short of amazing. The families greatly enjoy our event, which includes festive food and drink and Christmas music before the baskets are distributed."

"Sometimes the smallest things, like a basket of basic goods, can have a huge impact on someone else's life. When your actions come from a place of love, they have a tremendous effect on others and can often create a ripple effect."

Finally, Jen Fry has taken a lesson from her mother, a woman who has everything. Instead of filling her house with more gifts — she's paying it forward to those who don't have enough.

Photo by Damir Bosnjak on Unsplash.

"My mom is in her 80s and has almost everything you can imagine, so buying gifts for her is always difficult," Fry writes in an email.

"About 4 years ago after hearing my mom consistently talk about downsizing, I realized that I wasn't helping by always buying her gifts for her birthday and holidays. Although she loved them (or said she did), I knew they were just adding up in her house. It was at that point I decided instead to sponsor women of her age during Christmas and buy them gifts."

"Now, I sponsor two elderly single women and their caretakers and buy them Christmas gifts. These women not only want Christmas gifts, they need them. My money goes a long away because instead of buying my mom some new electronic device, I get to buy these women clothing, house supplies, or anything else they would like."

"While it is important to buy those you love gifts, I feel it is more important to help those who are in need of love as well."

This holiday season, it's important to remember your blessings and think outside yourself.

If you think outside that box (that you're planning to give to your family), you'll be making a huge difference to whoever you give to, even if you never meet them face-to-face. After all, when you help someone you may not know have a better holiday, that's the true spirit of the season.  

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

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Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

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Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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