As the holiday season is well upon us, I have been thinking about Black Friday (which has extended well beyond a single day and has taken on the quality of its own holiday) and Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday and sales and buying... of course the spirit of the season is not buying but rather giving so we have to hunt for those super good deals to do the buying so we can do the giving, right? Well, maybe not.

Today's Skill of the Month is "contribute". As part of DBT's Wise Mind "ACCEPTS" acronymn, we know that it is a great distress tolerance skill. I think it is truly part of the holiday spirit to give things that are much more important than more STUFF to others. Ourselves, our time, our resources. Our resources, by the way, do not mean that you're going into debt to give!

It is pretty easy to figure out how contributing to others helps others--giving of your time to serve in a soup kitchen, giving of your money can help an organization do for others, giving of your talents by teaching a child or another person a skill that you have... those people clearly benefit from your generosity.

Contributing to others, though, also helps the contributor! Think about the smile on  the face of a lonely person when you show up unexpectedly at their door. YOU feel good knowing you helped them or made them smile or just helped them to know they were recognized as being alive. The feeling that this creates in the contributor is possibly even greater than the contribution itself.

At this moment, I'm thinking about Ellen Degeneres. On her NBC show, Ellen, she frequently gives things to people. Of course, since she is a multi-millionaire, she can give financial gifts to those in need, but she also gives laughter and joy to others every day. You don't have to be a multi-millionaire like she is to make people feel happy and joyful. 

In this clip, you can watch people that Ellen has helped over the years thanking her for what she did for them. One of the guests from that show (you can see him at the 2:30 mark on the video) says "Ellen said 'I love you' and to get that expression... it really just meant everything... someone was listening to me, someone was hearing me."

Research shows that helping people directly, face-to-face makes us feel even better than helping people by writing a check and dropping it in the mail or doing something from afar. In this article, more on this is discussed, along with some tips for how to get started. Think about your community. Is there someone that you know of that is unable to get out of the house much? Could you visit them? 

I remember when my daughter was about 2 years old. It was well after the 9/11 attacks but from that day, I thought, I really want to make cookies for our local fire department. So, one day she and I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and walked the three blocks to our fire department to deliver them to the fire fighters there. Now, some 12 years later, my daughter still remembers doing that. I'm sure the fire fighters enjoyed our cookies at the time but probably don't remember the little girl and mom that came by so long ago to deliver them.

So I would like to challenge you this holiday season to think about contributing instead of buying. The best present, after all, is to give of yourself. Happy Holidays!