Whew! It’s been a crazy few days and week with a storm that absolutely devasted parts of northern New Jersey, particularly Sussex County where I live. After four days without power, I have grown to appreciate the comforts of home.

Like most people, I was welcomed into the homes of friends who did have power, but it made me think about all those less fortunate that me. In a holiday that promotes a season of giving, I thought about ways we could all give, even those who might not have a lot of expendable income.

Look around your own neighborhood. Are there families or neighbors who are elderly, or physically unable to get around? Offer to help clear the driveway, hang decorations, or get groceries. Sometimes, just giving a ride or a helping hand with a simple task around the house eases the burden.  It also gives someone a chance to talk and engage in a new way when travel and mobility are barriers.

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Many local animal shelters also need help. Whether you have a pet at home or not, no one can resist the cuddles and unconditional love of an animal who has the misfortune to be lost or displaced from its home. In addition to donations, most shelters welcome volunteers who will spend time walking, grooming, or even snuggling with animals who need to be comforted in a strange environment.

Nursing homes are another great place to spread some cheer. For residents who have few or no visitors, a new face is a welcome site. Many local youth organizations volunteer to sing songs, play games, or just hand out with elderly residents who long for a change of routine.

Veterans groups also welcome help from people of all ages. Many veterans’ groups place wreaths at cemeteries to honor those individuals who served their country. Others serve meals and offer programs to veterans who might have limited resources and income. Many groups offer to make cards and care packages for those serving overseas.

It doesn’t matter what holiday you observe. There are plenty of chances for everyone to give a little of themselves in the coming weeks and months. You don’t need a holiday to make anyone’s day a little brighter.