Random Acts of Kindness for Yule

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Helping others is a great way to feel good during the Yule season. Image by Steve Debenport/Vetta/Getty Images

When the frenzied Yule season rolls around, it's easy to find ourselves frustrated and anxious. Sometimes, it's a good idea to take a step back and just perform small random acts of kindness to help put things back into perspective. Doing nice things - even small ones - for other people not only helps them, but can also help get you back on track by focusing on what Yule means to you. Obviously, there are so many more things you can do besides the ones on this list, but just to get you started, here are 19 random acts of Yuletide kindness.

1. Drop off pet food at your local animal shelter. During the cold weather months, animal shelters are often full to capacity. It's hard to feed dozens, or even hundreds of animals on a limited budget. If there's an animal facility that's made a difference in your life, drop off a bag or two of pet food. It will go to good use. For an even better gift, volunteer for a few hours to help ease the workload.

2. Rake leaves or shovel snow for an elderly person. Is there a senior citizen nearby who has trouble getting yard work done? Sneak over when no one is watching, and clear the driveway and sidewalks, or rake leaves from the yard. Show up with a ladder, and offer to hang holiday lights in hard-to-reach places.

3. Leave a gift card in your favorite book at the bookstore. What's your favorite book in the whole world? Go to the bookstore, buy a gift card for the cost of that book, and then tuck it inside the cover.

Put the book back on the shelf, so the next person to pick up the book will find the card. Leave a note saying, "I hope you love this book as much as I do."

4. Donate toiletries and clothes to a shelter for domestic violence victims. Victims of domestic violence often escape with only the clothes on their backs, and not much else.

Check with a domestic violence shelter to see what sizes of women's, kids and teen clothes they need. You can also contribute toiletries like shampoo, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and feminine hygiene products.

5. Babysit a single parent’s kid so he or she can get some free time. Single parents don't often get a lot of time to themselves, especially if they don't have close family in the area. If you have a friend who's single, invite their kid to spend the day with you and your family, so their mom or dad can get some "me time" without worrying about their child's safety.

6. Say something nice to a stranger. A lot of times, random compliments and kind words go a long way. This doesn't need to be creepy - it can be something as simple as "Hey, I love your hat!" or "Those boots are awesome!"

7. Leave treats for people who work in your community, like the mailman, your librarian, and teachers at your child’s school. Sometimes we take people for granted because we don't see much of them, but they're still working hard to make our communities thrive. Leave treat bags or baked goods for someone to let them know they're appreciated.

8. Pay for the order behind you in the drive-thru lane. This is a fun one to do at your local coffee shop - one morning I was in the drive-thru lane, and the barista told me that I was car number 27 in a pay-it-forward string.

I wasn't about to ruin things for anyone else, so I paid for the coffee of car number 28. After all, I didn't pay for my own, the person in front of me did.

9. Send a thank you card to someone in customer service who has helped you out. We've all had horrible customer service experiences, but have you had an exceptionally good one? Make sure you thank the person who went above and beyond. Keep in mind that during the holidays, customer service folks are even more stressed out than usual, so a kind word goes a long way.

10. Leave a gift on a neighbor’s door. Put together a small gift for someone in your neighborhood - a potted plant, a holiday wreath, or a box of cookies. Leave it so they'll find it the next time they open the door - you don't even have to sign your name if you don't want to!

11. Donate books to a nearby children’s hospital. Illness doesn't take a break during the holidays, and there are sick kids in the hospital all year long. Donate new or gently used children's books as reading material. Better yet, partner with your local bookstore or school and organize a book drive.

12. Drop off a dinner for the firefighters and EMTs at your local fire station. While you're celebrating Yule with your family and friends, medics and firefighters are still on shift in case they're needed. Get a group of friends together, put together a dinner, and drop it off for the folks who work 24/7 to keep us safe.

13. Leave a bucket of tennis balls or Frisbees at the local park, so people’s dogs can play with them. Do you have a dog park in your neighborhood? Leave a bucket of tennis balls or inexpensive Frisbees so people can play catch with their canine companions.

14. Do something to help a homeless person. When someone asks you for spare change, chances are good that they really do need help. If you're not comfortable giving them cash - and many people aren't, which is okay - consider some other option. Pick up an extra cup of hot coffee, or a burger and some fries, or even make a blessings bag to help out the needy on a chilly winter day. Want to make an even bigger difference? Volunteer for an afternoon at a shelter or soup kitchen.

15. Help a total stranger take their groceries to the car at the store. There are few things as frustrating as trying to navigate a loaded grocery cart to your car through several inches of snow. If you see someone having a hard time, take an extra moment out of your day to lend a hand. Give yourself bonus kindness points if it's a senior citizen or a parent of small children.

16. Donate canned goods to the food pantry. The demand at food pantries nearly always exceeds the supply, especially during the holidays. If your grocery store is having a sale on canned goods, buy a dozen cans of your favorite item and drop it off. It won't cost you much, and it can help a needy family.

17. Buy coffee for people whose jobs force them to be outside in the cold. If you're lucky enough to work inside during the winter, count your blessings. Not everyone gets to do it. Cops, road workers, and utility crews are often working outdoors no matter what the temperature is. Go to your favorite coffee shop, get some coffee (along with the additional cream and sugar packets) and drop it off for a road crew.

18. Tape change to the front of a vending machine. How many times have you wished you could grab a snack and realized you were a few nickels short? Tape a few coins to the office vending machine to help someone refuel during the day.

19. Smile at everyone you meet today. Okay, maybe it sounds corny, but when you smile - a real, genuine smile - you just feel better about life in general. Having a positive outlook is a gift you can share with anyone, even strangers, and it doesn't cost you a thing.