GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)- ‘Tis the season to be merry, cheery, and bright! Although for many of us, this time of year is spent with family eating, giving, and celebrating, for far too many, the season comes with its own struggles. Maybe it’s someone’s first Christmas without a certain family member or friend, for another, it’s their first Thanksgiving away from home in a new place. Or maybe this year, financial cuts at work means their isn’t enough money in the budget to get their young children any presents this year.

Although we don’t live in a perfect world, let’s continue to make West Michigan a place where we both rely on and care for our neighbors. Hospitably isn’t just for homes, but for our neighborhoods and communities, too. Here are a few ways to be hospitable outside of your own home and create a more inviting community:

For those pressed for time:

The Holidays are often one of the busiest times of year, there’s cooking, working, shopping, planning, cleaning, the to-do list is never ending! In the midst of these hectic schedules, one of the most practical ways to give back is to try and make the day better for the person right next to you. Show patience in the crazy shopping mall, smile at the grouchy looking person, call someone who might be lonely on your drive to the store. This giving doesn’t have to cost a dime, your schedule, and you’ll end up refreshed, too.

For those with a little extra jangle in their wallet:

If you prefer to give back with cash donations, there are plenty of places to make financial donations in West Michigan that support our local community. With several homeless shelters in Grand Rapids and surrounding cities, you can help provide these shelters with the finances they need to keep their businesses afloat. Several shelters rely on the donations of others to keep their business running, and although any kind of giving to these shelters is appreciated, sometimes meeting the bottom line is really what many organizations need during these cold months. We recommend you take a look at the wonderful work Mel Trotter Ministries is doing in our community.

Another way to give financially is to consider sponsoring a child this Christmas so that they can receive Christmas presents this year. Several families are financially unable to give a Christmas present to their children, you can help by sponsoring a child or family. Simply type in on Google “West Michigan Christmas sponsor” and several different organizations appear which you can go through.

For those with more time:

Maybe you’re in a financially tight spot yourself this Christmas, but still want to give. Great! There are so many great and needed ways that you can give your time to help others this season. There are several homeless shelter and refugee centers needing volunteers. This is not only a great way to spend an afternoon, but it can also be a great way to catch up with friends or grow your social circle.

Senior living homes are another place where taking even only as much as an hour, can really make a difference in someone else’s day. For many elderly people living in nursing homes, the holidays can be really hard, several have no one to call family or visit with. Many residents have lost spouses and children have either moved far away or no longer visit. Spending even just an hour visiting the elderly can go a really long way in making someone else’s day. We recommend you connect with Samaritas Senior Living.

Teach your kids how to give:

Start a new family tradition this year by teaching your kids how to be generous. Give your children, before Christmas, a certain amount of money, maybe $20.00 and tell them they have to spend it before Christmas. But there’s a catch! The money has to be spent on someone else. That is the only rule. Maybe they can buy someone who looks cold a blanket or cup of coffee, or donate it to a charity of their choice, this is a great way to both teach your children generosity and get them to think creatively. On Christmas day, have each of your kids say how they donated or gave the money away.