The holiday season has a tendency to stir up all sorts of emotions in people.
Maybe it's the only time of year you get to see your family, and you're thrilled for a long weekend of warmth. Or maybe it's the only time you see your family for a reason, and you're bracing yourself for a 48-hour migraine. Or perhaps it's your one chance to just take some time to yourself, and you relish a few days of respite.
Funny personality types emerge in the process. One of my favorite coworkers sends daily email updates about his latke parties ("dreidel pyramid was a really nice touch") and trips to the Nutcracker ("the costumes were lovely but the gypsy didn't bring her A game") and elaborate family dinners ("you should try my banana bread pudding"). Another friend sat in Cafe Divis for eight hours hunched over a pile of Christmas cards she was determined to mail in time. My roommate disavows the season entirely, save for the uptick in cinnamony alcoholic beverages.
Regardless of how you choose to spend it, one thing's undeniable: December is a loaded month. The looping soundtrack of Mariah carols is never loud enough to drown out the feelings of commercially-imposed obligations to your loved ones, the shimmery lights never bright enough to blind the pressure of ending another year on a high note.
Yeah, it's safe to say the holidays stress me out quite a bit. But there are also things I love about them.
One of my favorite parts? How good it always feels to give. There has got to be some study out there that proves the feelings generated from giving have a more positive long-term effect on one's well being than those produced from receiving. I'm too lazy to look it up now; someone please send it to me if it exists.
I love to give. Maybe I've lived in the Haight too long, but it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to know I'm contributing a little bit of positive energy to the world. I love to give tangible things -- every year I fill my mother's childhood stocking with treats from the Ferry Building craft market and bring my dad a different type of San Francisco coffee.
And giving my time, hard as it can be to find, to causes and issues I care about brings warm and fuzzy to a whole new level. Okay, I'll put the Kool-Aid back in the fridge, but I'm serious.
San Francisco is rife with organizations that every day help make the city and its residents a better place. Sure, the city has its screwed up parts. Yet countless folks also work to make sure Crissy Field stays clean and Mission High can keep its arts program and the man who plays saxophone at the end of Market Street has access to a hot meal.
If the true meaning of the holiday season is rooted in love, then why not use these few weeks to start thinking about how to spread a little more of it around?
In the spirit of pretty much just that, I've asked my fellow HuffPost San Franciscans to share a couple of their favorite groups that do some good around town. Maybe they'll inspire you to give a little of yourself to something you care about; maybe you'll just click over to the next page.
At the very least, let them serve as a reminder that there's no shortage of love in this city -- during the holidays or otherwise.
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