Postal workers, housekeepers, doormen, and others are some of the hardest working people you know.

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person delivering package to home
Credit: 10'000 Hours / Getty Images

This year, as our country—and the world—faced the unthinkable, the definition of "service person" has taken on a new meaning. Though previously we may have considered a smaller cohort of individuals—say, EMTs, firefighters, and armed forces—to be service people, today we have so many more people to thank. Postal workers, sanitation departments, teachers, and even grocery store employees (among many others) have all gone to great lengths to help the rest of us stay afloat during such a trying time in history. 

No matter who they are and what they do, they are, undoubtedly, some of the hardest working people on the planet. What better time to show your appreciation than the holiday season? But as you craft your shopping list, you might hit a roadblock: What sort of token of appreciation could possibly be worthy of such heroic efforts? 

Here's a bit of good news: Sometimes, the best gifts are not materialistic, but rather those that come straight from the heart. Here, we suggest some ideas that not only say a sincere thank you, but also—in some cases—can help lessen the burden of their tireless work.

Donate in their name.

If there's a particular organization that has gone above and beyond for you or someone you know, thank them by donating to their cause. If they work for a non-profit, these organizations depend on contributions to survive—and thrive. There are also numerous charities to help public organizations like fire departments and their families. 

Alternatively, you can donate to a charity important to them. If you know your postal worker loves animals, consider making a donation to the Humane Society in their name. And if you don't have the means to make a financial contribution, you could even donate your own time to volunteering for that special organization.

Cook a meal.

Flip the cards on someone who so lovingly devotes so much of their own time to help others by helping them out with a daily task: meal prep. You can always send a gift basket or arrange for a local restaurant or deli to send a tray of food (a win-win, since you'll be supporting a local business, too), but there's nothing quite like a home-cooked meal. Bonus: If you deliver the meal yourself, you may even get to say thank you in person. If not, be sure to include a handwritten note. 

Make handmade PPE.

There's one thing just about everyone needs right now—especially those in front-facing industries—it's personal protective equipment, like masks. Put your sewing skills to good use and whip up a bunch of homemade cotton face masks for the nurses at your local hospital, or place some in individual sleeves on your doorstep for delivery workers to take when they drop your next package or bundle of mail. 

Alternatively, you can commission someone else to make the masks for you. For teachers, consider paying a local seamstress to sew masks in school colors or add embroidered patches with their initials or the school mascot. 

Decorate their lawn.

If there's a hard-working front line employee in your neighborhood, enlist the help of other neighbors to dream up a special surprise while they're at work. Put a big sign on their front lawn (you can purchase these on Etsy or through local rental companies), write inspirational quotes on their driveway and sidewalk in chalk, and put balloons and flowers on their doorstep. You could even go the extra mile by leaving a freshly-baked dessert for them, too. 

Share the love.

Another public display that goes a long way? An online review of their business or an open letter on local social media channels or in your town's newspaper. When you have a good experience, spreading the word not only shows gratitude towards the individual or department that helped you, but in many cases, it can also help bolster their business

Write a thank-you note.

Of course, you could opt to go the most understated route with a traditional thank-you note. In the always-on world that we live in, you can't underestimate the power of a handwritten letter—especially a deeply personal one. Use the opportunity to share a small anecdote about how their service has impacted you and your loved ones. It's a great reminder that they're doing important work; plus, it serves as a token they can revisit when times get tough and stress levels spike.


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