How to Be Kind to Your Fellow Bostonians This Holiday Season

Volunteer with Community Servings, donate to Rosie's Place, or just let a fellow commuter in at the next merge.

Boston cookie

Photo illustration by C.J. Burton

Make Someone’s Day

Whether you have time or money to spare this season, there’s always a way to lend a hand.

Help the Animals

Volunteer: Want a little puppy love in your life? The MSPCA Angell Boston Adoption Center needs help feeding animals, cleaning cages, and greeting visitors, among other things. Just be prepared to make a six-month, scheduled commitment to your new furry friends.

Give: Living on the water, it’s easy to take our marine life for granted. Join one of the New England Aquarium’s Giving Societies to keep Myrtle the Turtle and her aquatic pals swimming in style. Membership is in tiers; the Conservation Society requires a minimum $500 donation and includes exclusive invites to special receptions and exhibits.

Help the Sick

Volunteer: Work with Community Servings to help prep and deliver nourishing, medically tailored food to the chronically and critically ill—many of whom are housebound and crave a friendly visitor during the holidays—and you’ll serve up more than just a meal.

Give: Countless people travel to Boston to treat serious illnesses, and temporary housing is often prohibitively expensive (we know regular housing is!). Christopher’s Haven, near Mass General, offers furnished apartments to families of pediatric cancer patients—plus pet therapy, local field trips, and more. Help defray the price of a family’s stay, which can last up to eight weeks and total in the thousands.

Help Those in Need

Volunteer: Before you get cooking this Christmas, join Greater Boston Food Bank in its mission to end hunger by volunteering to bag and box groceries. It specializes in working with corporate teams, if you’re looking for a holiday bonding event without the usual boozy shenanigans.

Give: Collect toiletries, sweaters, slippers, bathrobes, and other essentials for Rosie’s Place, a South End respite for poor and homeless women. The nonprofit could also use staples such as peanut butter and oatmeal for its food pantry.

Help the Children

Volunteer: Your brood will learn more than one important lesson when you work with them to organize a clothing, toy, or book drive for children in need, then drop off the goodies at Brighton’s Cradles to Crayons Giving Factory. Kids as young as five can even help sort and pack donations at the facility.

Give: Every new parent could use a helping hand, but for moms and dads struggling to make ends meet, it’s even more essential. Donate to Room to Grow, a South End–based nonprofit that provides physical and emotional support for low-income families with babies, and give meaning to the phrase “It takes a village.” —Kara Baskin

Join the Club

An inside look at Boston’s top charitable boards—and how much “Good” you need to do to get on them.

Boston Ballet

If you’ve ever scored an invite to the dance company’s annual black-tie gala, you know that being a trustee means you’re the belle (or beau) of the ball. But it’s not just ball gowns and tutus: As a trustee you’re an advocate for one of Boston’s premier cultural institutions.

On the board: Event planner extraordinaire Lynn Dale and former City Councilor Tito Jackson.

Wanna join?: An annual gift starting at $25,000 is expected, and you’re also required to attend meetings, purchase season passes, and occasionally act as the host with the most for events.

Emerald Necklace Conservancy

If your thumb is as green as your wallet, this is the board for you. Founded in 1998 to protect the 1,100 acres of parkland that run from the Back Bay to Franklin Park in Dorchester, this nonprofit is governed by a board of directors who work with private and public partners to help maintain, restore, and promote the iconic urban green space.

On the board: Former Governor Michael Dukakis and former Sweet Bakery owner Courtney Forrester.

Wanna join?: Be prepared to have a stellar (and relevant) résumé, not to mention the ability to pay a generous unrestricted annual gift, disclosed to potential members only.

Camp Harbor View

If you’re involved with this nonprofit, which provides free summer camp to the city’s underserved youth, chances are you know founder Jack Connors, one of Boston’s most successful businessmen. Getting involved means giving the next generation the tools it needs to thrive while getting the chance to rub shoulders with power players.

On the board: Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy and New England Patriots Foundation president Josh Kraft.

Wanna join? More important than planning and attending galas is the expectation that you will regularly visit and experience the camp. —Abby Bielagus

Practice Random Acts of Kindness

The holidays can make even the coolest of customers see red. Here’s how to stay on the nice list while the rest of the city goes nuts.

Bad Idea: The snow’s starting to fall and you’re fighting gridlock to get home before the roads become a Slip ’N Slide. You’re ready to cut, bob, and weave through traffic, leaving chaos in your wake.
Better Alternative: Before you go all Mad Max, know this: Academics have found that changing lanes doesn’t beat traffic, and actually slows everyone down. Switch on a podcast—maybe Meditative Story, a new series on finding your happy place—to get into a calmer frame of mind. Let someone in at the next merge (it’s not a sign of weakness). You’ll get home just as fast.

Bad Idea: It’s the night before Christmas and you’re searching for the new Nintendo Switch Lite for your nephew. At your third stop, you spot one on the shelf, just as another shopper reaches for it, setting up a viral-video-worthy confrontation.
Better Alternative: A friendly game of rock-paper-scissors, perhaps? Better yet, embrace the spirit of the season and relinquish your claim. Research says that random acts of kindness can make you even happier than the person you helped. As for your nephew, get him Bruins tickets and maybe spend some time with the kid, eh?

Bad Idea: The bar is 10-deep with thirsty holiday revelers trying to get the bartender’s attention, and you’re tempted to push ahead of everyone with elbows out.
Better Alternative: Bartenders know a Masshole when they see one, so don’t act like one. Smile, make eye contact, show your money in your hand, and never stand at the server’s station. And remember, the nicer you are the first time, the faster it’ll be for the next round. —A.B.

Read more about how to be a better Bostonian this holiday season