JANUARY: Weight loss, winter sports, blood donations, poverty awareness

JANUARY 2015—Across much of the Northern Hemisphere, snow drifts and blustering winds are blowing—but, at ReadTheSpirit, we also welcome our readers in the Southern Hemisphere who are in the midst of summer!

One thing is universal in January: a desire to start the new year in a healthy way. This month, take a health challenge in honor of Weight Loss Awareness Month and Family Fit Lifestyle Month. If sports are in the January lineup, warm up with (healthy) hot foods, because January is Hot Tea Month, Oatmeal Month and National Soup Month. Help others get healthy by donating blood—January is National Blood Donor Month. Put clutter in its place for Get Organized Month, and learn more about the cycle of poverty and underprivileged neighborhoods in nearby communities, during National Poverty in America Awareness Month.

Check out these month-long highlights …


Families are encouraged to take more walks together, make meals together and adopt healthier habits during Family Fit Lifestyle Month. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition offers tips, resources for schools and meal suggestions; Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign targets faith communities, museums, child care centers and other groups with specific goal sheets. In fact—with benefits like a better mood, more energy, reduced stress, reduction in risk for heart disease and diabetes—there’s no good reason not to exercise.

Stuck on how to get started? Try scheduling a family activity that sparks interest, such as a walk in the park or yoga; sign up for a fitness class together; try new activities together; or turn the backyard into anything from an ice skating rink to an obstacle course. Get more ideas from this new interview with scientist, author and nature activist Marc Bekoff.


It’s estimated that someone needs blood every 2 seconds, so help those in need by donating today! (Visit American Red Cross to find a donation location near you.) Blood is usually in short supply during the winter months, largely due to illness in both donors and recipients, and even one donation can make a significant difference. January is National Blood Donor Month, so make a pledge to give blood, raise awareness or support a local donation center. Not sure if you’re eligible? Find out—and learn more about demand for your blood type, or download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, at RedCrossBlood.org. Get inspired with stories of “super donors,” from the Huffington Post.


Did you know that an estimated 38 million Americans—one in six children—live below the poverty line? January is Poverty in America Awareness Month (get analyses and more from the National Poverty Center), and all U.S. citizens are encouraged to lend a hand to those in need.

PovertyUSA is a domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, to raise awareness and education about poverty and its root causes. An initiative of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, PovertyUSA.org offers maps offers inside glimpses of life in poverty, suggestions of ways to get involved, resources and more. Pope Francis has actively challenged all Catholics to live in solidarity with the poor, and many world faiths promote caring for the needy.

DECEMBER: Santa Paws, human rights, 3D prevention & spiritual literacy

DECEMBER 2014—The first month of winter in the Northern Hemisphere is often described as a season of light. That’s an affirmation of faith in a month with the least daylight hours of the year. Christians celebrate Christmas; Jews light candles for Hanukkah; and it’s Yule for Wiccans and Pagans.

This month is also known as the season of giving. Consider some of the programs with special December campaigns …


Make the holiday season a little brighter for dogs and cats in your community, as December is Operation Santa Paws. A national initiative to supply animal shelters with much-needed items, Operation Santa Paws encourages the donation of everything from pet toys to blankets and towels, money and food. (Find more ideas here.) Businesses, schools and places of worship can set up a box for donations—just email [email protected] for a JPEG version of a poster to post on donation boxes. Toys and blankets help to drastically reduce stress in animals waiting to be adopted.


Following the atrocities of World War II, world leaders began work on a document outlining basic human rights—eventually producing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An agreement adopted by the United States General Assembly in December of 1948, the Declaration was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” (A simplified version of the document, for youth, is here.) The Declaration touched on rights in areas like politics, economics and culture. Each year, December 10 is kept as Human Rights Day, and that commemoration spans the entire month.


Holiday invitations pile up during the month of December—but don’t forget your responsibility to keep the roadways safe! December is National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month. If you think these issues won’t affect you, consider this: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 3 in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives. (For tips, awareness campaigns, resources and more, visit MADD.org.) Before heading out to a holiday party, keep these tips in mind: Plan ahead; always designate a sober driver; and take the keys of anyone who has been drinking and intends to drive. Hosts should provide both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks for their guests, and ensure that no guests leave without a safe driver.


Celebrate the unique and colorful characteristics of the world’s religions this month, during Spiritual Literacy Month. Places of worship, communities, libraries and families can promote respect among the world’s spiritual traditions by encouraging learning and reading. This is a good time to reach out to someone of another faith, and greet him or her for a holiday formerly unknown to you. Gain a greater understanding of world cultures. In need of resources? Read through archives or by category of ReadTheSpirit’s Holidays & Festivals column.