New Year, New Resolution

Every year January brings with it a renewed sense of optimism for change. A new year signifies a clean slate, a fresh start, and a chance to reinvent and reinvigorate ourselves. New year, new me, right? Well for me, 2018 was a year of monumental personal growth. I feel like, in a lot of ways, I got my shit together, so in 2019 I decided to focus, not on myself, but on the world around me.

Anyone who pays even passing attention to the news is likely to conclude that world conditions right now are bad, and probably going to get worse before they get better – terrorism, war, natural disasters, a looming economic downturn, social unrest, hate fueled violence, a government shutdown, refugee crises, and the list goes on. But there are also a lot of good things going on in the world, though sometimes you might have to dig a little deeper in the news reel to find them – extreme poverty rates are declining, literacy rates are rising, people are living longer, quality of education continues to improve globally, we’re experiencing unprecedented medical and technological breakthroughs, barriers of social inequality are breaking down, and the list goes on.

It’s so easy to focus on negative news, events and emotions – both globally and personally. It can be discouraging and, at times, overwhelming, which is why my 2019 resolution is to be a greater force of good within my community. When I made this resolution, I didn’t have anything specific in mind, I just knew that I wanted to be a bigger part of generating and spreading kindness, positivity, gratitude and love.

Fast forward to the third week of January and I have yet to take any initiative on the part of my new year’s resolution. What I realized is that I was thinking too big, like setting a weight loss resolution and expecting to lose 20 pounds and transform my entire life in just the first month – it became a daunting task.

Then, a few days ago, I was listening to a podcast wherein a woman spoke so passionately about her family’s non-profit organization and their mission to alleviate local homelessness and to restore dignity, compassion and respect to the community, that I felt suddenly compelled to revisit my new year’s resolution. Maybe it was the fact that it was MLK day, which by no coincidence is also national ”day of service”. Or maybe it was that the charity served communities so close to my own that resonated with me. Or it could have been that the thermometer in my car read 5 degrees and the mere thought of being homeless on a night like that sent a shiver up my spine. Whatever it was, I took it as a sign to stop putting off my resolution and to start taking action.  

When we talk about volunteering and notions of giving back people tend to think of grand gestures, big organizations and global issues – myself included – but the truth is, “even if you just change one life, you’ve changed the world forever” (Mike Satterfield). If we start thinking about giving back in this way, if everyone saw even the smallest act of kindness as changing the world in a positive and meaningful way, perhaps more people would take action, and at the end of each day, the world would be a better place. So, with that in mind, I went back to the drawing board and decided to start small with a list of {free} acts of kindness, because while lack of expendable time and money are valid factors to consider, they are most definitely not legitimate excuses for why I can’t do something to make someone’s day a little brighter. 

I decided to share my list here because I’m hoping it might inspire some of you to join me in my resolution to spread kindness and be a force of good in the community. Some of these things may seem small and seemingly insignificant, but they have the power to elicit hope, inspire good will and evoke change. The more kindness, positivity, gratitude and love we put out into the world, even in the smallest doses, the more there is to drown out and overcome the negativity and hatred that some days seems almost suffocating.

Try this: Pick a number between 1 and 40. Find the corresponding number below and go do it!
P.S. the first 30 won’t cost you a cent, so go ahead and double down on those. 

  1. Promote a local business.
  2. Compliment the first 3 people you talk to today. It could make someone’s entire day.
  3. Send a random positive/grateful text to someone in your phone.
  4. Let someone with less items get in front of you at the grocery store.
  5. Know any parents who could use a night out? Offer to babysit for free.
  6. Learn the names of your barista, office security guard, store cashier and other people you see every day so that you can greet them by name because everyone is important.
  7. Run an errand for a family member who is busy.
  8. Send a ‘Thank you’ card or note to the officers at your local police or fire station.
  9. Write a positive Yelp review about a local business you like.
  10. Check with the merchants you shop at regularly to see if they offer opportunities to donate to an organization as part of your purchase. (AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your eligible purchases to a charitable organization of your choice and Whole Foods gives you the option to donate your five-cent reusable bag credits to a local organization).
  11. Donate your credit card rewards points to a charity of your choice. Or turn them into gift cards for your local shelters or other organizations. (If you never had the money to begin with, it’s technically not costing you anything, right?)
  12. When someone wants to repay you for something, ask them to pay it forward instead.
  13. Recycle. Duh.
  14. Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
  15. Volunteer at homeless shelters or soup kitchens.
  16. Donate your skills. If you have a special skill such as writing, cooking, photography or graphic design, consider offering your services pro bono. Many charities, nonprofits, and advocacy groups have specialized needs but can’t afford dedicated staff.
  17. Give blood (just one pint of blood can save up to three lives!). Also, consider volunteering at a blood drive.
  18. Donate your stuff (clothes, toys, furniture, appliances, cars, etc.) to a non-profit organization.
  19. Aid in refugee support across the globe by packing clothes and care packages.
  20. Become a Big brother or Big sister (via Big Brothers Big Sisters of America or at your local YMCA).
  21. Practice self-kindness and spend 30 minutes doing something you love today.
  22. Foster an animal.
  23. Volunteer at your local animal shelter.
  24. Visit with seniors.
  25. Volunteer as a translator.
  26. Volunteer at a national park or nature center. You can help keep the park clean, welcome guests, man the information center and museums on-site or assist the maintenance dept. In a lot of places, they even let you bring your dog, Win-win!).
  27. Walk for a cause (collect donations, pay to walk or volunteer at the event).
  28. Write one thank you note each week to someone different. That’s 52 people each year!
  29. Share recipes, advice, life hacks, study guides, etc.
  30. Switch to paperless mail, pay your bills online, have receipts emailed to you when given the option and bring reusable bags to the grocery store (giving back and paying it forward to the environment is just as important).
  31. Donate to a food drive, or better yet, start one at work.
  32. Buy coffee or breakfast for the person behind you in line.
  33. Leave quarters at the laundromat.
  34. When you’re getting fast food, buy an extra meal for a homeless person (or a $5 gift card if you’re worried they might misappropriate the money).
  35. Sponsor a youth sports team.
  36. Give back to schools. Use www.donorschoose.org to find schools in your community. You can donate money online or deliver supplies directly to the school of your choice. 
  37. Make a care package for deployed soldiers (to be delivered via the Red Cross).
  38. Make a care package for the animals at your local shelter.
  39. Say yes at the grocery store or retail place when they ask if you want to donate your change or make that $1-$5 donation.
  40. Make a care package for the homeless. You can donate it to an organization, a local shelter, or just hand them out to people in your community. Looking for a place to start? www.isyfoundation.org/ can put together a hygiene package for just $6 and a winter care package for only $30! This is the organization I mentioned at the beginning of this post – check them out!

Check out https://neighborhoodofgood.statefarm.com/ and www.volunteermatch.org/ to find more opportunities and events, both to attend and volunteer at, in your specific community.

Sincerely,

Stephie

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