I was watching Good Morning America on Thanksgiving morning eagerly awaiting my first glimpse of the Macy's Day Parade. I admit I have the heart of a 5 year-old waiting on Snoopy to grace the chilly New York City sky. During the course of my impatient waiting, the popular news show began their typical analysis of the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday; two words that either drive a person into fits of excitement at leaping over grannies and running off Thanksgiving calories in order to get the next best deal or rushing into hiding and praying that Monday would arrive sending the crazy people back to work. Among all the deals and reporting, one thing stood out to me. Dedicated people were camping out for days in front of certain stores. After I got over my initial shock and concern (oh my gosh, how do they charge up their cell phones from a tent?), I began to feel sad at how much effort some people are willing to put into getting a good deal. Now, don't start throwing bricks at me just yet. I'm all for a great deal especially when it comes to gas prices, coffee or dog costumes. There's nothing wrong with saving a little money but let me shake up your eggnog a little bit.

The elections just ended and during the campaigns, I heard a lot about the economy and how many people are out of work. There are more homeless people than ever before. Children are facing the loss of Christmas morning because mom and dad can't afford gifts this year. Many of us have recently lost family members and are facing our first Christmas without them. I started thinking about those people camped outside stores waiting to buy the next big screen television. I wondered how we could redirect that kind of commitment to getting the kind of joy not found in box. The joy I’m talking about comes from God and celebrating the birth of Jesus. The gift I’m talking about comes from giving from our hearts and not from our Visa cards. 

How do we do that? Amazing that you would ask right at this moment! We love people the way we want to be loved. It's easy (ask Hallmark they've made movies for years on this stuff).  Still need some ideas? Read on…..

Donate and Shop for Charity! The Family Lifeline has joined in partnership with 2500 businesses to give and counsel hurting families and make Christmas special for children. The best part of this is you can get involved and still go shopping without ever leaving your home! No tents, no long lines and the added bonus of helping people who wouldn't have had a reason to smile without you! All you need to do is visit www.Goodshop.com or www.Goodsearch.com with your shopping list and designate Family Lifeline as the charity. You get the discounts, they get the 20% to carry on the work behind the joy and you become an angel to a family in need. That's a game winner!

Share your Time! Volunteer to give a senior citizen a wonderful Christmas by spending time with someone elderly who would otherwise be alone. 

Volunteer to Serve! Local shelters are always in need of people to serve meals. Check out community centers, homeless shelters and church outreach programs for events. 

Get In and Drive! Start a clothing or a toy drive at your church, school, or business. Many people are willing to donate to make room for new stuff. This is a good one for kids because they will learn how to share at a young age. 

Be a friend! Find a family that is struggling with the loss of a loved one or job and bring them dinner or invite them out. Arrange a game night and watch the laughter pour out. 

The options are endless and your heart and wallet will be more fulfilled then you ever dreamed! 

So how did my Thanksgiving end? The parade was a hit, the turkey was sleep-inducing and “Black Friday” meant I slept in. I'm shopping online in my pajamas, coffee in hand, and can't wait until my dogs get a look at those reindeer costumes I found them online! Merry Christmas and Happy Giving! And don't forget to visit www.goodsearch.com and www.goodshop.com and designate The Family Lifeline, Inc. as the charity you want to give to so they can help families!

(A special thank you to our guest blogger today, Onyx Conklin, for this amazing insight to the joy of giving!)

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