There’s a lot you could do for others over the holidays
There’s a lot you could do. You could wheel your grill out to the sidewalk, or the end of the driveway, and grill sausage for your neighbors. You could roast chestnuts, too, and offer them to anyone who walks by.
If you have a waffle press and an extension cord, you could set up a table in front of your house and make waffles for neighbors or strolling strangers. Even runners will stop for a warm waffle.
You could offer hot cider by the cup from a slow cooker.
You could bake a lasagna or make a pot of minestrone (look up the Marcella Hazan recipe) and bring it to someone who lives alone.
You could cook a pile of blueberry pancakes and deliver them on a weekend morning to the little kids who live next door.
You could make a squadron of paper airplanes for them, too.
There’s a lot you could do.
You could open your house for board games — Monopoly, Clue, Stratego, Scrabble — and set them up on different tables, and invite your friends and neighbors to drop by and play a round. You’ll all wonder why you don’t do it more often.
You could invite a bunch of people over for a movie night: A slice of pizza and conversation, followed by an 8 o’clock showing of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” or Bill Murray’s “Scrooged.” You could buy big bags of Martin’s popcorn and divide it among guests.
You could grab a couple of glasses, a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine or a jug of cider, and knock on your neighbor’s door. Your neighbor might seem mildly shocked but will quickly see that you mean business. So you’ll either end up at the kitchen table for an hour or in the front hallway for a few minutes. Either way, you’ll share a toast to the holidays and the coming year.
You could write sweet notes to disagreeable, almost-former friends on Facebook. Or you could just unfriend them and hold them in memory the way they were before they became intolerable.
Another foodie thing: You could cook up a giant pot of spaghetti sauce, the kind that simmers for a day. After it cools, divide it into six or seven mason jars and give them out to neighbors.
If your kids are now adults, but you still have most of their children’s books, gather those you’re willing to part with, line them up on the kitchen table and invite six kids to come by at noon to pick out a book to take home. Cookies optional.
You could carry a big bag of oranges onto an MTA bus and hand them out to fellow travelers with some holiday cheer.
Instead of buying Christmas cards and just signing your name, you could buy some blank stationery, or just get some good paper, and block out quiet time to sit at a table and write letters to 10 people you care about.
Hand-written notes of encouragement, thanks or praise reach people in a profound way, and more than ever in the age of text messaging and email.
You could look up a school teacher or college professor or boss you liked, or someone you’ve come to appreciate after a lot of time and distance, and put them in the queue for a letter of gratitude.
Everyone knows someone who needs a ride somewhere — people who don’t drive or don’t own a car. Produce some gift certificates, each good for one free ride within, say, 50 miles of home, and give them to the people you know who are transportation-challenged. Encourage them to take you up on the offer, too. There’s a lot you could do.
You could make some good sandwiches and spend a couple of hours driving around to intersections where you’ve seen panhandlers, handing each of them something to eat.
Or you could park nearby, walk to the corner and motion to the panhandler that you’d like to have a conversation. Introduce yourself, hand the person a sandwich and say you’d like to know what they need besides money. Ask how you can help. Back off and walk away if the person is not interested in a conversation. But you’ll be surprised how eager some panhandlers are to talk. They are used to engaging strangers.
There’s a lot you could do.
Think of three people who might be alone during the holidays. You could call each of them and invite them over for dinner or out for a drink. If they’re busy — not as left-out as you suspected — then it’s all good.
You could choose a poem or a brief passage from a novel, knock on your neighbor’s door and offer to read or recite it. The Billy Collins poem about a Christmas Day sparrow would be good, or the Mary Oliver piece called, “This Morning.” And you can’t go wrong with reading from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” The penultimate paragraph tells of Scrooge becoming “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old city knew.” Some people laughed to see the surprising change in Scrooge, but he didn’t care. “His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.”
Correction: In Friday’s column, I referred to Light Street and Madison Street, a Baltimore intersection that does not exist. I meant St. Paul Street and Madison, and I regret the error.
There’s a lot we can do: Neighbors Without Walls volunteers meet at Terra Cafe to pack lunches to deliver to Baltimore’s homeless.