By Staff Writer, Stephanie Pawlowski
The holidays are a time when our desire to help those in need can be at its strongest. While opportunities to help are everywhere, how can we help others when we are struggling with a chronic illness? For many of us, serving food at a local shelter or shoveling the snow on our neighbor’s driveway just isn’t something that is physically possible due to extreme pain, fatigue, and all that comes with being chronically ill.
But chronic illness doesn’t have to keep you from helping others. In fact, there are lots of ways to make a difference in your community on a short-term basis or even from home.
Not only that, helping those in need can have a health benefit for you as well; studies show giving back can reduce stress, decrease the risks and symptoms of depression, and increase self-confidence. Plus, making a difference in the lives of others just feels good — helping others despite your struggles makes your focus shift to gratitude and joy.
With the holiday season soon upon us, check out these 10 ways to help others while living with a chronic illness yourself (some you can even do from your couch!):
Help the Homeless
Make homeless care bags (and keep in your car) to give out when you see a need on the road. Here is a packing list that can help you with ideas. Local shelters and organizations will even take donations through Amazon if packing your own bags isn’t an option right now.
Use Your Creative Skills
Make and give hats, blankets, wheelchair bags, or any other lovey your creative heart desires. There are even kits available to make fleece blankets that anyone who can tie a knot can create! Unsure of where to send them? Click out Project Linus or CareWear.
Create a Toy Drive
Run a toy drive right from your couch! Reach out to friends and family through social media, create a wishlist on Amazon, and have everything delivered right to you. Soft toys for cancer patients, squeaky toys for shelter animals, or a general list for your local holiday toy drive can all be sent to your door. Most organizations or churches will even come pick up your pile of goodies, so you never have to leave your house.
Check out volunteermatch.org and narrow your search to virtual opportunities. There are over 7,000 options available, including writing, web design, and social media work.
Bless Someone with Food
Donate a few food items to a local pantry or organization while you are buying groceries. Some food stores will even take the donations for you, and if your shopping earns you a free ham or turkey, you can donate that too!
Write a Letter
Letter writing campaigns are a great way to make a difference in the lives of others right from your home. More info about the organizations that help send Christmas cards and letters for veterans or active military members can be found here. You can also look at Amnesty.org, an organization that lobbies for human rights for all people around the globe through letter writing campaigns.
Help Supply Critical Life Necessities
Make a purchase or donation from Heifer International or World Vision. Both of these organizations give donations to those in need around the world and allow you to choose what is being given. Choose from gifts like the digging of a clean-water well, chickens and goats, or school books for children. These gifts can even be given in honor of someone special, so you can get your gift shopping taken care of at the same time and help a great cause!
Grab a Shoebox
Operation Christmas Child is a fun way to include kids in giving to those in need. This
includes shopping for items to fill a shoebox and dropping it off at a local collection site.
Visit Samaritanspurse.org for everything you need to get started.
Visit with a Neighbor
Love your neighbor! This seems simple, but a little love goes a long way. A plate of cookies, a cup of coffee and conversation, or even twelve days of small, thoughtful gifts can change the life of another person. Be the sunshine in someone else’s day, and be amazed at how much brighter your day gets.
Don’t Forget the Fur-babies!
While helping follow man has countless benefits, if you are an animal lover, there are also plenty of opportunities to love on your furry friends during the holidays (or all year long). Reach out to your local shelters or rescue groups and find out about volunteer opportunities, playing with the animals, taking them on walks, etc. If you are unable to leave your home, there are many ways to help out online, including making adoption posters for social media, writing and sharing potential adoptees for rescues, invoicing for pledges, etc.
Being sick doesn’t have to stop you from being generous of your time, talents, or treasures. Helping those in need while struggling with a chronic illness can bring holiday cheer to someone else’s life, as well as your own!
Have you found ways to help others even when you’re sick? Share your ideas in the
Stephanie Pawlowski is a homeschooler, crocheter, Pastor’s wife, and book lover. She lives in Western New York with her husband and 4 boys.