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Conventional and unconventional gift ideas for this season

Lead Summary
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Price ranges from a few dollars to hundreds. Gift ideas to fit any level of generosity. Keep them anonymous, please.

• Have an impoverished neighbor who can’t afford to fill their fuel oil or LP tank? Quietly get some neighbors together and fill it for them.

• Go to a furniture store (not necessarily a fancy one, but one for us working folks) and pay off an outstanding balance. This idea works great at a rent-to-own kind of place. Don’t get their name, you don’t need to know who they are, and they don’t need to know who you are.

• Walk up to a stranger at a gas station and offer to pay for their tank of gas.

• Go to the tire store and talk to the manager. See if you can pay him in advance for one of a set of four tires for the next customer that walks in. Don’t wait around for that customer, give the money to the manager and leave.

• Leave cash money between the bags of staples (rice, beans, etc.) at the grocery store (I think I mentioned this one before).

• In the fast-food line, pay for the person behind you. This is very popular.

• Give food to your local food bank. First check to see what they need.

• Ask your kids if they would like to give up getting some gift to help feed a hungry family (while at the same time volunteering to give up something for yourself, too, as an example).

• Send a gift card to your local safety folks (fire, police, sheriff, EMTs) but for certain leave it anonymous – do not identify yourself.

• Do the same for the teachers in your child’s school.

• Commit to writing letters to your grandchildren monthly (I start doing this when they reach ten years old).

• Offer to get an oil change for your neighbor’s old car.

• Get several boxes of 10 penny nails and give them to your handyman neighbor.

• Go to the cemetery trustees and offer to buy a stone for the infant’s grave that has no stone. You can also get these names from funeral directors.

• Ask your child’s teacher if you can buy new notebooks for everyone in the class.

• Have the piano or grandfather’s clock repaired for the elderly person next door.

• Go to the animal shelter and pay ahead one or more adoption fees.

• If you live on a farm, cut a load of firewood for a neighbor who heats with wood (there are many out there).

• Ask a gym teacher if there is any piece of equipment they need.

• Buy a young family a annual pass to a zoo or some other local attraction.

• Ask the music teacher if you can buy new, matching music stands.

• Buy a block of tickets for the local Christmas pageant and pass them out to folks who might not normally go.

• Buy someone a new pair of winter boots.

• Write a poem to your spouse. Don’t think you can do this? Of course, you can, even if it is three lines long they will love it.

• Offer to read to someone who has difficulty seeing. Not just once but make it a habit.

• Neighbor with a green thumb? Order them some flower or vegetable seeds.

• Buy the school bus driver or postal delivery person a new set of gloves.

• Buy a veteran a new set of clothes.

• Give a favorite heirloom to the next generation (teenager or older) in the family, now.

• Rake your neighbor’s leaves or shovel their snow…more than once.

• Bake a (pie) (cake) (another dish) and take it to a neighbor you don’t know very well.

• On the outs with a family member? Either write them a card or call them up and ask for their forgiveness (even if you think you were right).

• Buy gifts made by local crafts persons.

• Declare your home a political discussion free zone for the holiday season. From experience, I can tell you this works wonders.

• A gift for yourself…go to a church, any church, at least three times between now and the end of the year.

If we do a fraction of the items on this list, we’ll feel better about ourselves and our families and neighbors will feel better about themselves, too. Happy holidays, everyone.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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