Alexandria in Action: It’s that time of year

Alexandria in Action: It’s that time of year

By John Porter

The Halloween candy is gone. There’s a chill in the air. It gets dark at 5 p.m. Stores have their Christmas displays up and holiday music is playing. We must be getting close to Thanksgiving.

And while I truly don’t understand why we rush the seasons, I do enjoy this time of year, as it is generally a time for family, friends, food and fun.

It is also a time when we tend to focus a bit more on helping others and reflecting on what’s truly important in life. In the next few weeks, many of us will be providing donations of food, helping to serve Thanksgiving dinner and generally thinking more about those in need in our community — those who don’t have the connections to family that we enjoy, who don’t have the benefits that we sometimes take for granted.

It is a time when we tend to act more on our thoughts of helping others than just thinking about those in need and wishing we could do more. As we approach the giving season, I offer some thoughts on ways you may be able to build on your desire to help, your wish to truly make a difference in someone else’s life.

1. Find your passion and follow it: We all have different interests. If you haven’t figured out what you truly care about and where you can make a difference, there is no better time than now to do so. This time of the year provides numerous opportunities to get involved. Most of us are so very lucky to be in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Helping others who are not as fortunate can be beneficial not only to the recipient but to the provider.

If you don’t know what your passion is or aren’t sure how to follow it, you may want to join Senior Services of Alexandria and ACT for Alexandria on November 18 for the program, Finding Your Passion — Leaving Your Legacy, which may help you better figure this out. Go to or for more information.

2. Volunteer your time: Use the next few weeks to volunteer with various organizations of interest to find where you might be of assistance and make a difference. Once you find what’s right for you, continue your connection in 2016, providing whatever time and expertise you have, to help others. Volunteer Alexandria ( may be of help in matching you with volunteer opportunities in the city.

3. Make a donation: You will soon be receiving, if you haven’t already, numerous appeals for financial donations from deserving nonprofits, both locally and nationally. While understanding you can’t possibly give to all, there is no better time to determine what you care most about and where you might have the largest impact. Part of ACT’s commitment to the community is to provide residents with objective information to assist them in their giving. If you have questions or we can be of help with your philanthropic decision-making,
just let us know.

4. Do something nice and unexpected: While hopefully this is the way we all generally operate, the holidays are the perfect time to extend the practice of doing something nice for someone else, particularly if they don’t expect it. It can be something simple like leaving a larger tip than usual for someone who has provided great service, or making sure those with whom you generally do business know how you appreciate the quality of their work. It, of course, can be larger and even more impactful, such as reconnecting with an estranged family member or extending an invitation to dinner for a neighbor or colleague. Let your imagination be your guide.

Lastly, don’t forget yourself. Be sure to use this time to enjoy family and friends and to remember how lucky you are. Take some time for you. Enjoy the season.

The writer is the president and CEO of ACT for Alexandria.