Even though I’ve always had a natural inclination towards people, places and cultures that are different from my own, the idea that individuals should put aside differences to come together for the betterment of humanity as a whole seems legitimate and logical enough to be considered commonsense. Nobody can survive alone, nor should we want to. I’m not saying we need to radically pry charitable donations out of the hands of the rich or track countless hours from graduate volunteers to make this happen. It’s much simpler than that.
We all have the ability to lend a helping hand and sometimes it’s as easy as doing just that. If you’re interested in giving back this year or have included the words “donate”,”volunteer” or something of that nature on your list of resolutions, here are 5 ideas to get your brain and body moving.
1. Take time to appreciate a culture different that your own.
Sure, researching and reading wordily news can be enlightening, but spending time to physically experience the lives of people unlike you is a great way to gain perspective. Take a cultural plunge: visit art exhibitions, attend local performances or participate in social events that you wouldn’t normally be interested in and interact with people! Putting yourself in the shoes of a neighbor sheds light on reality and the “bigger picture” of our diverse society. Being charitable doesn’t necessarily require an exchange of material goods or money. You can give back simply by putting in the effort to have a better understanding of others, no matter how different they may seem.
2. Start the conversation and spread the inspiration.
Word-of-mouth marketing and sharing charitable success stories have a tendency to spread like disease. In an age where the internet plays an integral role in our daily lives, we now have the access to millions of people across the globe; people who share similar values and viewpoints. Talking about social issues or sharing organizations via the web is, at the very least, a great way to start positive conversation. Non-profit organizations or charitable causes appreciate any type of promotion, and now more than ever, it’s easy to spread the word from the comfort of your own home.
3. Donate what you can.
Financial strain plagues many people. I’m sure we’re all guilty of changing our normal route or pretending to be on an important phone call to avoid those lively Greenpeace (or other non-profit) reps that litter every street corner. But even if you cannot afford to donate in monetary means, one sweep of your home or even closet can surely produce something that would benefit others. Spring cleaning is just around the corner, consider giving your home a deep clean and see what you come up with.
4. Volunteer your passions.
The beauty of volunteering your time to help others is that you have total control over how you’re going to spend it. Maybe your hobbies involve arts and crafts or caring for pets and people… something that you don’t get to do during your normal 9-5 job. If that’s the case, try to find a community center, school or organization that will let you utilize your passions for a greater purpose. Even if you don’t think you’re particularly talented, all it takes is a simple phone call and some patience.
Of course, cleaning your community’s streets and serving the homeless are other great alternatives, but if you want to make a lasting impact and make volunteering a part of your daily life, you’re more likely to succeed if you thoroughly enjoy doing it.
5. Take small steps.
If you want to be successful, I also suggest starting small and working your way to larger projects. Maybe your friend needs a ride to work and you share the same route or your mom needs a hand cleaning the house, whatever you can think of that might make another person’s life a little easier. Pay it forward and show people that you care. Do this and karma will serve you well.
Do you have any ideas for giving back to your community? Share your experiences in the comments below.
All photos courtesy of Jenn Beening