Everywhere you turn these days, it seems like there is someone who needs your help, from the millions hungry in Africa and those suffering from natural disasters around the world to the homeless and hopeless in America, right in your backyard. The overwhelming number of people who could benefit from your help often creates a sense that nothing you could do matters – but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Never doubt the power that one person – or even one smile – can have on the world.
If you’re burned out on humanity’s ongoing and unmet needs, don’t shy away but rather bring them closer to yourself with these ten simple acts of kindness. None of these ideas require a long commitment, much money or even time – these acts of kindness are fast and easy to accomplish and will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy all day long.
- Make a positive comment online. The internet is filled with snarky comments and outright slams, as often it’s a negative response that provokes the strongest written reaction. Buck the trend and add some online balance with a positive comment on a blog or someone’s Facebook page. Your positive energy will reverberate around the social circle and uplift everyone who reads it.
- Share the wealth. The next time you’re at a discount store like Target or Wal-Mart, throw a few extra packages of new underwear or socks into your basket – you can buy several new pairs of each for under $10. Drop these off at your local homeless shelter or if you don’t have time, just mail them in. Everyone deserves the experience of putting on fresh, brand new socks – and those at the homeless shelter need it more than anyone. If you can, opt for organic cotton (because the environment deserves that).
- Smile when you feel like scowling. When you encounter a parent with a screaming child, an elderly woman taking forever to check out at the supermarket with exact change or some jackass in traffic who is trying to cut you off, resist the urge you have to scowl out of frustration or shoot the finger and instead: Smile. You will feel better and your knowing glance of understanding just might make that person’s day.
- Compliment someone in the service industry to his or her boss.If you have never worked in the service industry waiting tables, answering phones or cleaning at a hotel, first count your lucky stars that you have been able to avoid this soul-sucking work, and then compliment the next stellar service person you encounter – to their boss (and in front of them, if possible). Compliment their character and/or skills, and you will make their day, guaranteed!
- Tell your friends and family that you love and appreciate them. Sure, they already know this – but hearing those sweet words of thanks will ring like gold in their ears for a long time, and you might even set off a “pay it forward” trend.
- Walk around your neighborhood and clean up trash. Grab a plastic bag and gloves and spend a few minutes picking up the garbage that has accumulated in the streets, sidewalks and bushes around your home. You will improve your immediate environment and encourage others to do the same in just a few short minutes.
- Make two lunches and give one away. If you usually make yourself lunch for work, pack two bags instead and give one to a homeless person or someone in need along your route. Stop and talk for a minute or two – don’t worry, homeless people don’t bite – and give the person a bit of dignity along with that egg salad sandwich.
- Send a thank you note. There is someone in your past that has helped you out in a big way, but you have only recently realized the powerful positive influence of his or her actions. Take the time to write them a letter, with your hand on a piece of paper that you can snail mail. Out of ideas? Send a thank you note to your local fire department.
- Donate your books to a library. Sort through your bookshelf for books that you are done with or (let’s face it) that you are never, ever going to read. Drop off a box at your local library so that others can glean knowledge from them – and create new space in your life for other things!
- Encourage a friend. You probably know a young adult or relative who is struggling with the economy, relationships or life in general – and getting a lot of unsolicited “work harder” advice from every angle. Resist the urge to advise and instead just encourage them with kind words and acknowledgment of their efforts – and maybe even a hug or pat on the back.