The season of advent begins on Sunday and this week, when I pulled the pieces of the advent calendar that I made last year out of the cardboard box where we stash our holiday decorations, I was struck by the idea that instead of only focusing on activities that warm our own hearts—sugar cookies! tree trimming! hot cocoa parties!— that we could use the calendar as an opportunity to hold our family accountable to reaching beyond the four walls of our apartment and to enact positive change.
The past few weeks have been disquieting and distressing. And while I think we have lots of hard and important work to do that’s perhaps not appropriate for small children, if ever there was a time to teach lessons of empathy, and understanding, and kindness, this is it. In a moment when politicians and pundits would have us believe that we’re more divided than ever, it can feel like a small act of resistance to embrace wholeheartedly the incredible diversity of culture, opinion, faith, and custom that make this country great.
Because an advent calendar is a part of our own family tradition, I’ve put these ideas to work using that framework, but of course the intent transcends particulars of faith or tradition. It’s a list of 24 things that we might all be able to do with our families in this darkest time of the year, in hopes that they might help bring some light to the world around us.
I’ve tried to make the majority of the action items and activities on this list attainable for families with small children and I’ve linked to a few specific ideas as a way of offering examples, but these are starting places, not ending places and the list is certainly not exhaustive. If you have other ideas to share (for folks big or small), please do!
Twenty-four small ways to embrace peace and justice this holiday season:
- Sign this petition asking the new administration to reject hate and bigotry (and pass it along to five friends).
- If you don’t have one already, consider implementing a family tradition of offering thanks before meals.
- Collect winter coats from friends and family and bring them to an organization planning to redistribute them to folks in need.
- Buy a subscription to a source of reputable journalism and share the news you read there.
- Attend an open religious service or meeting of a group that you don’t belong to.
- Take your kids to a peace vigil.
- Reach out to a new friend and invite them into your home for dinner.
- Attend an anti-hate protest as a family.
- Engage respectfully with friends and family who might disagree with you.
- If you witness an act of hate or bias, report it.
- Check in on a friend or neighbor who might feel particularly vulnerable. Talk specifics.
- Make public art.
- Repair an act of hate-fueled vandalism as a family.
- Read a book about someone who might not be like you.
- Send a care package to support folks doing important work you can’t do.
- Host a bake sale and donate the proceeds to a good cause.
- Make cards to send along to folks who could use some cheering.
- Use story time as a time to read books with messages of peace and healing.
- Attend a celebration that you’ve never been to before.
- Start a conversation with a stranger on the subway.
- Support businesses run by folks who might be at-risk.
- Reevaluate your holiday gift-giving plans and see if you can carve out resources to help others.
- Include kids in family decisions about supporting a charity; consider a kid-centric cause.
- Expose your kids to a new tradition.
For more ideas on non-violent action and peaceful protest, here are a few more resources:
For parents struggling to talk with kids about post-election anxiety:
This is largely a list of one-off ideas; for folks looking for longterm ways to support folks in need, here’s a charitable donation primer. Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, or no, here’s my hope that tomorrow finds you in a place that’s warm and safe and nourishing.