'Tis the holiday season; a time for Christmas trees, candy canes, oversized turkeys and WAY too much wrapping paper. It’s also a time of year where everyone tends to feel a wee bit more generous than usual. Just think about the gifts you give - enormous, expensive, exciting - chosen carefully and especially for those we love.

At OutsideIn we don’t only love gifts, we LOVE giving them too. It’s kinda why we do what we do. 

We spent all year thinking about how we can perfect the art of giving. In fact, you may as well say we’ve earned our black belts in giving. It’s so our thing that the Christmas elves over in the North Pole actually bring us in for seminars in giving...was that too far? Sorry - I’m a wee bit excited about Christmas. 

Seriously though, we are extremely passionate about giving back and it’s an integral part of who we are as OutsideIn. While the Christmas season tends to put a lot of focus on shopping, presents and festivities (which is great), we like to use this time of year to shed light on the issues of homelessness and why, during this season in particular, giving back is so important.

For those experiencing homelessness, Christmas isn’t usually a time filled with giving but rather a time spent hoping someone will be moved to give help. And, because most of society is huddled up at home with loved ones from near and far, for those on the outside of society, Christmas means lonely days and isolated nights, a longing for conversation and a sadness many won’t ever understand. While many of us get to celebrate and relish the joy of this bright, vibrant season, we want to challenge you and ourselves to find moments where we can extend that warmth to those who’ll be without it.

The impact that a small gesture of kindness and conversation can have is ENORMOUS. And it could have a life-changing impact on how someone experiencing homelessness spends Christmas this year. So, through this blog we want to help equip and empower you to be an instrument of Christmas cheer, the kind that everyone needs, this year. There are so many ways you can help those in need this festive season but here are a few simple suggestions on where to start. Big, small or in between, every act of kindness goes a very long way. 

For most of us, this time of year is filled with laughter, holly and a whole lot of jolly around a dinner table. You’re in turkey-overload, your belly is stuffed full with stuffing and you’re 4+ bottles deep in purple Schloer. But, for a second, think about what fills the gap between chews and sips and the answer is probably some chit chat with the whole fam bam. Afterall, conversation is a huge part of Christmas and through it we get to catch up on all the things we’ve missed, big and small, with friends, family and loved ones from near and far.

A Christmas without the laughter-filled conversation and the conversation-filled gatherings just isn’t a Christmas at all. Yet, for those on the street this is often the reality. However, it’s one that can easily be changed. This Christmas, while you’re dashing through the shops or picking up your Christmas turkey, why not stop and greet someone experiencing homelessness? Better yet, have a conversation with them, ask them what their name is and how they’re doing, see if they’re okay and if you have the time, why not even ask them to tell you a little bit about themselves. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you might find. As humans we all crave connection and there is no better way to make this real than through some kind words, some encouragement and some genuine interest in one another. It’s simple, it’s free, and it always means SO much to the person on the other side. 

Every year before I go out and buy my family presents, I make a point of asking them what they want. I think it’s the best way to make sure that Christmas gifts mean something and that they give value to the person who’s receiving them. And, considering that 1 in 10 Christmas gifts end up in a landfill because they are unwanted, I think that’s a pretty good method!

Now imagine that you lived on the streets and you were constantly given things that you either didn’t like, couldn’t eat because of allergies or that you already had five of... You’d probably feel a little undignified because of that, right? One of the simplest but most meaningful things you can do is ask a person what they want or need. Then, not only will you be using your money or time for something that will actually help, but you’ll be showing the individual the respect, care and dignity that could change their entire day.

Whether or not you want to admit it, you love a good Christmas card, don’t you? Seeing them all sitting on top of the fireplace in all their glory, bright colours, cheesy one-liners and (messy) handwritten messages and all, is such a lovely part of the holiday season. My granny would keep a notebook filled with hundreds of addresses for all the friends she made throughout her life and, each year, she’d send each person in her notebook a Christmas card, ticking them off one by one until every name was covered. 

What an easy but meaningful way to share some holiday love and kindness! And you can do just that by writing your own cards for those in need this Christmas. Whether homemade or bought, if you take some time to write a few extra cards to give out to those experiencing homelessness on the streets near you, or even taking them to a local shelter or homeless charity, you could make a significant impact just by sharing a few words. 

At OutsideIn we believe in quality and deeper connections and so, if you wanted to go the extra mile, you could even ask your local homeless charity or shelter by asking for the first names of those they look after and addressing the card to each individual specifically.

If you aren’t able to do this yourself, we sell Christmas cards on our online store and for each Christmas card purchased, we give another to someone experiencing homelessness. So without leaving your home you can still be a part of making an impact through words!

Let’s be real, it’s not the best practice giving a gift ONLY if it means there’s one in return for you. No one gives out their Christmas presents with the expectation that they’re going to get one back. In fact, one of the things I really love about Christmas gift-giving is that the real gift comes from seeing the joy on someone's face when they get a gift knowing that it’s just because you love them - nothing more, nothing less, no hidden agenda.

This Christmas, we’d love to encourage you to give to those in need without any expectation of anything in return. I’m pretty sure you’ll find that seeing them feel valued will be more than enough and although they may not have anything to give back, even though they are some of the most generous people I have ever met, their gratitude will be no less.

We wanted to make this exchange really easy for people who want to help but don’t really know where to start. And so, we’ve created something called The Giving Store - the store where everything you buy means nothing for you. Let me explain… It’s a special store where you can buy something for someone without anything in return - exactly like giving a gift. Every product purchased from The Giving Store goes directly to someone in need and this Christmas, these gifts mean more than you could imagine. From both practical items to items that are intended to encourage and place value on those who receive them, The Giving Store is a space where anyone can make a difference no matter where they are, how much they have to spend or what their knowledge about homelessness is. When we say every little bit counts, we really mean it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Christmas is a tough time for those experiencing homelessness. But it doesn’t have to be. If we all pull together and bring those on the outside of society in, we can change the narrative of homelessness one person at a time.

So, we’d love you to get involved this year and keep those experiencing homelessness in your heart, in your mind and inspiring your actions this festive season and beyond!


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