The countdown is on; there are exactly 12 days left until Christmas. That makes this the perfect time to roll out our annual take on the carol “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
We began the tradition three years ago, after learning of a young San Luis Obispo couple who decided to perform 12 random acts of kindness as a Christmas gift for a relative. The gifts include a blood donation (his) to United Blood Services and 10 inches of hair (hers) to Locks of Love. We tried to track down the couple, but when that proved unsuccessful, we decided to borrow their idea and share it with readers.
Here, then, are a dozen suggestions for readers who want to lend a helping hand during this season of giving. Pick one or two — or more, if you’re so inclined — or make up your own list. Have fun with it. And to quote from another couple of other carols, we wish you a holly jolly Christmas and a happy New Year.
First Day: A partridge in a pear tree
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Take some time out to enjoy nature — hug a tree, eat a pear or take a hike — and then do the world (or at least our corner of it) a favor by donating to your favorite green organization.
Don’t have one? Here are a few to check out: The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County (lcslo.org); the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden (slobg.org); and One Cool Earth (onecoolearth.org). If you want to get your hands dirty, consider their volunteer activities.
Second Day: Two turtle doves
Doves being the symbol of peace, we ask that you consider adopting a modern-day peacemaker: a giant rat. Seriously. The nonprofit organization Apopo (www.apopo.org/en) trains rats to sniff out undetonated land mines in countries that include Tanzania, Mozambique, Cambodia and Vietnam, so the mines can then be safely destroyed. Rats also are trained to detect tuberculosis in sputum samples in sub-Saharan Africa. In 10 minutes, a rat can evaluate more samples than a lab technician can check in an entire day.
For just $10, you can by a bunch of bananas for these furry heroes; $24 funds a rat house, and for $7 per month, you can “adopt” one for yourself or as a gift. Because who wouldn’t want a giant rat for Christmas — especially one you’d never have to actually meet?
Third Day: Three French hens
In recognition of the climate change conference that wrapped up in Paris, how about doing three things to help clear the air?
Ideas: Join a car pool. Walk to work (or to the store, or to whatever else is in reasonable walking distance). Join Bike SLO County (https://bikeslocounty.org), an education and advocacy group that promotes safe cycling.
Fourth Day: Four calling birds
We’re calling for help for feathered and furry friends. Make a donation to a local animal shelter or pet rescue group.
Fifth Day: Five golden rings
Round up your old cellphones and donate them to a good cause. For example, RISE (www.riseslo.org) — which provides crisis intervention and treatment services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence — raises funds by collecting used cellphones. Cellphones and donations also can be donated to Cell Phones for Soldiers (www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com).
If you don’t have a spare cellphone, make a bell ringer smile by dropping $5 in the next Salvation Army kettle you see.
Sixth Day: Six geese a-laying
While we’re on the topic of eggs, here’s a way to have your breakfast while “feeding” a good cause: During December, Old Juan’s Cantina in Oceano will donate $1 to the Food Bank Coalition for every breakfast and special menu item ordered. Or make a direct donation to the Hope for Holidays campaign, (www.slofoodbank.org). Remember, every $1 donated can purchase $10 worth of food.
Seventh Day: Seven swans a-swimming
Much of the Central Coast will be a-swimming in rain this winter if predictions of El Niño prove accurate. We welcome a break from the drought, but winter storms bring their own set of challenges. Social service agencies need help providing warm clothing, sleeping bags and emergency shelter for homeless people.
One example: United Way’s Coats for Christmas (www.unitedwayslo.org/campaign) is raising funds to buy heavy-duty rain ponchos. The ponchos — along with sleeping bags, hooded sweatshirts, socks, toiletries and other supplies — will be distributed at the annual Christmas Dinner for the Homeless held on Christmas Day.
Eighth Day: Eight maids a-milking
Help local homeless shelters keep milk and other healthy foods on their tables. Robin Smith, a volunteer at the ECHO shelter in Atascadero, describes how challenging that can be: “We usually have about 15 kids or so at the shelter on any given day, so we consume a lot of milk,” she told us via email. “We use about four gallons a day, which comes to about $100 a week. It’s amazing that something so small as a glass of milk can add up to $400 a month at the shelter!” For information on how to donate and for volunteer opportunities, go to www.echoshelter.net.
Ninth Day: Nine ladies dancing
We aren’t sure if they dance — though we suspect many do — but we know for sure that the ladies of Womenade are worthy of a huge round of applause. Womenade of San Luis Obispo County is a grassroots group that provides essentials to people in crisis — whatever that need may be.
Here’s a sample from the group’s Facebook page: “What Womenade shared this past week: Partial rent for a family with six children — the parent is seriously ill; emergency diapers, clothes and personal items for a mother, a domestic violence victim, and her children; partial rent for a mother whose husband is in jail; partial rent to move a family from homelessness to housing; partial rent for a family — the father’s medical bills have depleted the family’s funds ...” etc., etc. Go to www.slowomenade.org to learn how to help.
Tenth day: Ten lords a-leaping
Leap at the chance to put a smile on a child’s face this Christmas. Drop a new, unwrapped toy in a Toys for Tots bin. The Children’s Resource Network also is collecting gifts for kids and teens (gift cards, jewelry for girls and socks and T-shirts for boys are some suggested items for teenagers) and needs donations of wrapping paper and tape. If you really want to get into the spirit, volunteer to wrap gifts at a toy distribution event, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Arroyo Grande High School parking lot and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 20 in San Miguel, at the corner of N and 11th streets. For information, call Lisa Ray at 709-8673.
Eleventh Day: Eleven pipers piping
We’re piping up for the arts. Support local artists by attending a live performance or two; purchasing gifts from SLO County artists and crafters; or finding a new home for that old guitar or trumpet that’s been gathering dust.
Twelfth Day: Twelve drummers drumming
Beat the drum for members of our community with special needs. Two examples: Jack’s Helping Hand (www.jackshelpinghand.org) assists kids with cancer and other illnesses, and the Senior Nutrition Program (www.snpslo.org) serves free meals to seniors countywide.