Last week was a tough one for the world, and for my heart.
I found out some bad news related to a friend's health, my sister's new car died, her husband was in an accident in the rental car, whale mortality rates are at a staggering high, Japan was hit by an earthquake, as was Mexico, and of course the horrible acts of terrorism in Paris, Beirut, the middle east, and news of Kenya resurfacing. Not to mention the ongoing struggles in the world, homelessness, war, hate, pollution... It's a lot to take in....
I think for many, it's hard to allow ourselves to think about these things too deeply. It's painful, and we feel helpless. We don't want to know all of the details, because we can't change what has happened. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by these things, things beyond my control, I try to put that energy into something I can change. Even if it is small. Because small things, can make a big difference.
Sometimes these types of things are called "random acts of kindness," but I think they can be small acts of very intentional kindness too.
Here I have taken 12 basic ideas of small things that you can do to make the world a better place, and broken them down into specific actionable ideas.
It's amazing how getting mail can brighten anyone's day. Think specifically of someone who might be in need of it. Someone who is deployed, has moved to a new city, someone going through a hard time, someone who might be lonely, maybe an elder family member. Sending a quick note or card to say "Hi, I'm thinking of you," can make a big difference. Of course it's good to be less generic than that, but you get the idea!
Animal, homeless, and domestic violence shelters are often in need of supplies and materials. I get notices on Facebook from our local animal shelter, and often times they will post things that they are in serious need of. For example, paper towels and bleach are a hot commodity! From time to time, KC and I will pick up a gallon of bleach and a package of paper towels and take them out there. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, but it's a big help to the animals and shelter workers. Sometimes they want things like peanut butter, old blankets, toilet paper tubes, etc. Things you'd already like to get rid of. By calling ahead or checking on social media, you can find out what shelters need, and the best way to deliver it. It doesn't take much time or money but it makes a big difference.
You can do this on a scheduled basis through groups like Habitat for Humanity, hospitals, libraries, shelters, etc. Or you can do it in a less obvious way, volunteer to watch your friend's kids, or to house or pet sit for someone in your life. The payment can be knowing that you helped someone who could use it.
Even the tiniest material gifts can make someone smile. Maybe you wrap up a holiday book for the neighbor kids, or a $5 romcom DVD and some popcorn for a girlfriend who's going through a breakup. Or you saw something small that reminded you of a friend far away. That small gift can make a person's whole day. A chocolate in your husband's laptop case for work, a new stapler for your coworker who broke hers, it really doesn't matter what it is.... it matters that you noticed them, noticed what they are going through, and showed them that you care.
Pay for the person behind you at the drive thru. Often times there will be one or two people in the car, ordering $5-10 worth of coffee or food. Not a huge expense, but a nice gesture, and a unexpected one. You never know when that will make someone's day, or make their lives just a little bit easier.
I think eco-change is especially daunting for some people. It's easy to think that recycling one thing, or one type of thing won't make a big difference, but it does! My advice is always to start small. Pick one thing (aluminum, plastic, batteries, newspapers, etc.) and start by keeping a bin of only that. Work your way up, and eventually you may be recycling almost everything. It doesn't have to be hard, and you don't have to be hard on yourself. Knowing that you made a baby step is gratifying enough. You may not get an immediate reaction of gratitude from anyone for doing this one... but it's just as important! Every little bit really does matter, this is a great one to work on as a family, instilling that knowledge in your kiddos' minds! They will thank you later!
Maybe your neighbor is really helpful, lends you a snow shovel, walks over your paper when it's in their yard, offers to house sit for you, etc. Or maybe it's a coworker who's been a big help. Or just someone you interact with who is really friendly and always makes you feel like the world is a better place. Leave them an anonymous (or not!) note saying why you appreciate them! My preschool used to do "Bucket Filling" (there is a book for you mammas out there!) where the admin staff would give little notes and gifts to other employees throughout the year. Sometimes they were specific, "Alex, you are always so cheerful first thing in the morning greeting the kiddos as they get to school! Thank you!" and sometimes they were the same for everyone, "Happy Holidays, paint your twinkle toes!" with a nail polish, but they always brightened my day! If someone is kind, happy, helpful, patient, etc. let them know! They would love to hear it. :)
Put change in a meter that is about to expire or even pay someone's ticket. You never know when a mother of three, or someone who is sick could really use that help! There's nothing like taking away a bad part of someone's day. And when it only costs you pocket change, it's a win win for everyone!
Show your coworkers you appreciate them. Maybe they're an indispensable part of the team, or maybe they are a good friend who will listen to you when you're having a rough day. It doesn't matter why you appreciate them, just show them you do. Bring them a coffee, bring in breakfast or treats to share, give them small holiday gifts, or notes like in #7.
I don't know if people do this where you live, but here, most of the time, people will wait and hold the door open for someone who is coming in. It's a nice gesture, and it can be a big help when someone is carrying things, wrangling children, or struggling to walk. You never know, it might even just make people smile. This is a tiny one, but for some people it means a lot, especially people who think the practice has been forgotten.
Or your dad, sister, cousin, grandma, whoever. It's easy to get caught up in the busyness of our own lives, but it's important to remind people that you are thinking of them, and to make time to show them. Even just saying hi, asking them how their day went, telling them you thought of them when you saw something happen somewhere. etc. Especially the older people in our lives, everyone likes to hear that they aren't forgotten. :) If you need a reminder of just how much our older people need us, watch this. Be ready to cry though.
Sometimes the best thing you can do, is just be there. To give away something that you already carry. Maybe it's putting your phone away and actually giving your undivided attention to your husband, friend, pet, etc. Maybe it's reading a book to a kiddo, or a grandparent. It could be shoveling someone's walk, or raking their leaves. It might be carrying something for someone who has low strength or mobility. Maybe it's helping someone shop because you're awesome with clothes, or gift giving. Or maybe there is a way for you to use your business or skills to give someone who needs it something for free or at a discounted rate. Even if you don't think you have skills that someone would use, you do! Just think about it. :)
I hope that you guys are all hanging in there after last week, and that you are able to use some of these ideas to make the world just a little bit better place. Starting small can create a ripple effect, it's important to remember that, especially when times are hard!
What are some of your favorite small ways to make a difference? I would love to hear, maybe we could make a big post!! :)