We all want to make a difference.

We wish we could do more and help others. Or that someone else would help because we don’t have enough time, money, resources or any number of reasons/excuses.

Well, I have news for you! There are literally hundreds of small ways that we can help our communities thrive. Many of them don’t take much money or time.

Can you possibly make an impact and fit making a difference in your hectic schedule?

You can!

You will find that when you use your time to help others, somehow time expands along with your heart to make room for the good you are doing.

PLUS, not only will you be helping other people…you will also get a boost in your mood. Thus making you more likely to spread joy in the other interactions you have. AND you can involve your entire family – helping others and quality family time!

WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN

We can’t do it all, but we can make a difference with small, simple actions that make a difference in the lives of others. We can make the world a better place. Here are just a few ways to get started.

school supplies

Donate supplies to a local school or teacher

Teachers are the unsung heroes of the world. They are not paid equivalent to the value they bring and many of them spend their own money on supplies for their classrooms. They unselfishly give part of what little they earn to help make learning easier for our children. A simple way for you to help is by asking a teacher you know (or local school) if there are any classroom specific needs. These needs are especially great midway through the year when supplies are running out.

And I am willing to bet there are things they need that fit every budget.

All you have to do is ask…and follow through. No money? You could volunteer to assist with room clean-up or set-up when school is out (summer, breaks, teacher workdays, etc.).

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Feed someone

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 795 million people, or one in nine, suffering from chronic undernourishment. One in six people in the US suffers from hunger daily. There are many ways to help this crisis. Here are just a few.

Food Banks

You can donate money or food to a local food bank. Food banks really know how to stretch a dollar and can get food much cheaper than we can buy it and donate it. You can find a food bank near you via Feeding America’s Local Food Bank search. Once you find a local food bank, consider doing more than donating money or food, your time is just as valuable and many of the food banks make it easy to find out how to volunteer.

Homeless Shelters

You can also find local homeless shelters via the Homeless Shelter Directory. Ask what kind of food or nutrition services they offer and how you can help. There is no greater honor than to serve someone else simply because it is the right thing to do. Nourish your soul while providing nutritional nourishment to someone else.

Meals on Wheels

Donate your lunch break and make a difference in the lives of seniors in your area. Meals on Wheels provides more than just meals, they bring food to those that have trouble getting around as well as companionship and a safety check. They partner with local services and are in most communities. There are many ways to help. Outside of donating time and money, you can also send an email to elected officials and advocate.

trash

Pick up trash

This is a quick win that requires very little pre-planning as long as you have the supplies always on hand.

You can pick any location you prefer – a local park, a beach, a vacant lot, your neighborhood, a low-income neighborhood or any other are that you want to beautify.

You will need garbage bags (you can have separate bags for recyclables) and gloves.

There are a few precautions to keep in mind – wearing sturdy gloves, being careful near roadways and bodies of water, watch children closely and have adults handle any potentially dangerous items.

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Tutor someone

Sharing knowledge you already have is a great way to give back to the community without spending any money.

There are several ways to ensure you tutoring services are helping those that need it most:

Children

Adults

  • Volunteer at an English class for English as Second Language students
  • Find adult literacy classes and offer to help
  • Find a volunteer opportunity through United Way (filter by Adult Education)
  • Ask a local homeless shelter if they have any needs for tutoring, job interview help, etc.

volunteer

Recycle

Recycling by definition is the reuse of materials, either pre-consumer or post-consumer, that would ordinarily be considered waste. Recycling helps lessen the amount of waste that goes into landfills, helps reduce the number of toxic chemicals absorbed into the earth and, in some cases, significantly reduces manufacturing costs and energy consumption.

There are many ways you can help:

  • Participate in your local recycling program; check with your local city hall for details
  • Volunteer at city-wide recycling events
  • Take note of, and use appropriately, any recycle bins when you are out and about

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Donate clothing

There are many people (adults and children) that don’t have adequate clothing.  Some people simply need clothes to protect themselves from the elements.  Some need clothing for job interviews.  And some need clothes for school.

Make a habit of cleaning out your family’s closet at least twice a year, especially at season changes.  There are many places to donate your gently used clothes and shoes.

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Host an eyeglass drive

Sight is something that many of us take for granted.   And many of us have old glasses sitting around the house.

Consider hosting an eyeglass drive.  Ask your friends, family, and co-workers to bring their old glasses (with cases, preferably).  You could also get your kids’ friends and/or classmates involved too!

Once all of the eyewear is collected donate them to the Lions Club, or other organization in your area.

donate blood

Donate blood

“No one ever asked me” is the #1 cited reason for not donating blood.  Well, now you’ve been asked.  Blood donation is an easy process that can save lives.  Every blood donation has the potential to help three people!  You can help in several ways.

Take the pledge

Pledge to be a first blood responder and donate 3 times in 2018.

Bring awareness

Bring awareness to blood donation by posting on social media that you made a #pledgetosave, and post again each time you donate.

Donate blood

There are several organizations that take blood donations, some even have reward programs. Below are just a few:

People hangout together at coffee shop

Listen to others

Listening is an art.  A craft to be practiced and fine-tuned. A skill to be learned.  When we take the time to perfect this craft and learn this skill, we can make a big impact on the lives of others and in our own lives.

Ask questions. Engage in conversations. Really listen to what other people are saying instead of thinking of your response.

Be patient and compassionate to every human you interact with, we all have our own story to tell in our own way.

Here are a few tips to having more meaningful conversations.

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Write notes of gratitude

Gratitude. Such a powerful word and an even more powerful action.  Expressing gratitude is good for the person you are expressing it to, and even better for your soul. Finding your own way to express gratitude is fundamental, going through the motions are meaningless if it doesn’t mean something to you. Here are just a few ways to consider:

Hand-write letters

A hand-written note shows consideration and thought for the other person.  It is also good for your subconscious to see the words in your writing. Consider committing to writing one thank you note a day for 30 days (or more).

Send messages

Sending spontaneous messages via text, email, or PM (whatever your preferred digital medium) is another great way to express your gratitude.

Consider starting every morning with a message to a co-worker saying thank you either for a specific thing they helped you with or simply being who they are as a colleague.

Send random messages to family or friends letting them know just how much you appreciate them being in your life.

Not sure what to say in your letter or message?  Here are some ideas to get you started.

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Don’t forget about common courtesy

While there are some behaviors such as eye contact, hand shaking, personal space, etc. that differ in from culture to culture, there are some basic courtesies that all humans can practice to make the world a kinder place. At a basic level, just being aware of our surroundings and recognizing that you are not the only human existing in any space you are in is a great step…acknowledge others.  Here are some more simple reminders to ponder:

  • Let others finish their sentences
  • Be aware that each person has their own life experience that influences how they perceive your actions and your words
  • Share knowledge
  • Be polite
  • Be helpful – load the dishwasher when it isn’t your turn, pick up litter you didn’t drop, replace the toilet paper roll…
  • Respect differences in opinion
  • Learn how to pronounce names
  • Pick up after your animal
  • Don’t judge others by their appearance
  • Hold the door for someone behind you
  • Put your phone down when talking to another human

More to come…I have quite a bit to say on this subject.

family-pier-man-woman-39691.jpegStart with your own family

Why is it that when we are in a bad mood, the people we love the most get the brunt of all those negative emotions?  There is a lot of psychology behind this phenomenon that is a post to itself (it’s coming, don’t worry).  One way to begin to overcome this is to make an intentional decision to be kind to those you love and start recognizing when you are not.  It really is that simple to get started.

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Rethink your birthday

This is one day one of the days on the calendar you are not likely to forget.  So, make it meaningful beyond yourself.  Connect your birth – your existence- to what you can do for others, not what others can do for you.

You could spend the day volunteering (lots of great ideas right here!).

Or host a birthday party where people donate to a cause that you care about (again, lots of great ideas here!).

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Simply show up

SHOW UP.  Not just physically, show up fully.  Make a conscious effort to be fully present in every moment. Some tips to practice being fully present:

Breathe

When you find your mind wandering to the stresses of while playing with your child, stop and focus on your breath. Breathe in 1…2…3; Breathe out 1…2…3; Repeat two more time…3 deep cleansing breaths.  Then shift your focus to your child’s laughter, her freckles, the color of her hair…really see her.

Know that your thoughts are not you

When our monkey minds begin to stress and worry about the past and/or future recognize and appreciate those thoughts, but let them go. Those thoughts are not you.  This is another topic that is a post unto itself…stay tuned. For now begin to notice your thoughts as separate from you and something you have control over instead of letting them have control over you.

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Smile.

Smile.  Smile often. Smiling is contagious (kind of like yawning…humans are weird 🙂 ). You never know who needs to just see friendly face.  Someone sincerely happy to see them.  You hold the gift of joy within you.

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Look into your child’s eyes

How often do we look over our children.  We talk to them (or at them).  We may even play with them and make conscious efforts to engage in their lives.  But, how often do we stop, get on their level, look them in the eyes, and let them know that what they have to say is important?

The answer, as a society – not often enough.

Looking into you child’s eyes is like pushing the pause button on the fast movement of time.  They grow up too quickly. Push the pause button often and look into their eyes.

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Workout for good

This one can have so many benefits.  Do good.  Get physically healthy.  Get mentally healthy.  Spend time with family, if you pick a race/event to do together.

Active.com is an easy way to search for Charitable Races and Events.

blessing bags

Make blessing bags

Blessing bags are a great way to help those in need, under sheltered, and homeless. This is a great family activity to do to from start to finish.  There is no right or wrong way to do this, but it is helpful if you start by determining what is really needed in the community you are going to help. Find a local homeless shelter via the Homeless Shelter Directory , contact a local pantry, or find out where homeless people tend to congregate local to you. You could also keep a few bags in your trunk at all times for when someone in need crosses your path.

I will be creating a Blessing Bag Checklist soon!  Stay tuned!

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Help an Animal Rescue

Local animal shelters are often ran solely by volunteers and donations.  They do so much good for the animals they serve and the community they live in.

A quick google search will show you the animal shelters in your area.  Each shelter has their own process for volunteers to apply and help.

And, of course, they are always taking donations.  They typically have very high veterinarian and food costs – any donation is appreciated.

donate hair

Donate your hair

Hair is something that many of us take for granted.  We grow it, cut it, and throw away the cut ends.  A great way to help others is to grow your hair and cut it off periodically.  There are many organizations that you can donate your hair to and they all have different criteria (length, allowing of colored hair, etc.), so make sure to research before you cut your hair. I will be analyzing the details for each soon.

My hope

My hope is that you will find at least on item on this list that you will try for the first time.  There are several items on this list that I either haven’t done or I have not done often enough.  Over time I will share my own experiences and expand on many of the topics here (and other “do good” activities).  If you have other suggestions please comment below.  We can all learn from each other!

Print or pin the picture below as a reminder:

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