Tuesday, February 3, 2015

5 Small Ways to Make a Meaningful Difference in Your Community

Do you love to help others? Is there something about your surroundings that you’d like to improve, but you’re just not quite sure how to go about it? The solution is simple – start small, and work up to the rest!

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, and we can begin to feel like whatever we can get done on our own or with a small group of friends and family will not be meaningful enough to make any real difference. But that’s not true! It’s the sum of many small acts of kindness that really add up to a whole lot of change and good vibes.

Come on. Get inspired! Here are 5 small ways to make a meaningful difference in your community – with very little more than an open heart, a big smile, and lots of NICE.

Reach out to your neighbors. Do you have an elderly neighbor who could use a friend? Reach out to them and ask if they’d like to visit with you on a weekend afternoon. Maybe they need help cleaning their home or organizing the attic. Or perhaps all they need is someone to check in on them once in a while, or share a cup of iced tea and a snack on the porch. Sometimes just being there for a neighbor can make such a huge difference in their spirits. You can give that to them simply by being yourself! How awesome is that?

Organize a food and clothes drive for the homeless in your community. Many of us have one or two cans of food in our pantries to spare, but others aren’t so lucky. This weekend get the family together and check out that pantry to see what’s in there that you can do without. Take a couple of hours to clean the house and figure out what clothes and other items you and your family might have outgrown. Fill up a box (or two, or three!) with everything you find, and call up your friends. Let them know what you’ve done, and encourage them to take a look in their own pantries and homes too. Then it’s time to share and take action! Make a big batch of fun snacks, and invite everyone to bring over all of the cool stuff they want to donate. Sit in a big circle (snacks in the middle!), and take turns sharing what helping others means to everyone. Before your donation party, find a local homeless shelter and coordinate a carpool to take everything over there yourselves after the sharing session. But don’t stop there! Maybe you can coordinate a small drive every month that can add up to a ton of donations over time. What a simple way to make such a huge difference in the lives of those who need a little NICE the most! 

Always be polite and helpful. Opening a door for someone. Saying please and thank you. Offering to help with grocery bags when you see your neighbor struggling to make it up their porch steps, or babysitting for a neighbor desperate for a last minute sitter free of charge. All of these things sound so simple, so small, right? But they’re the complete opposite! Making an effort to be polite and helpful wherever and whenever possible is powerful, and it can make a huge difference. Often we can inspire others to be a little more polite and helpful just by setting an example ourselves. And when everyone in a community begins to pay just a little more attention to these small everyday acts of kindness, something amazing starts to happen. We all help each other more. We start to feel better, happier and less alone. And little by little, life becomes just a bit easier. You can start that incredible change today simply by acting with kindness! 

Smile. Just like small acts of kindness can create powerful change in your community, so can something as simple as smiling at each other more! When we smile, we create positive energy that can turn even some of the worst days around. It costs nothing, and it’s so, so simple. Want to make a difference? Smile more, and brighten up someone’s day every chance you get. Even on a bad day, a simple smile can help others feel more positive and in turn encourage them to smile at someone else that will then smile at someone else, and well, you get the point!

Recycle, never litter, and encourage others to do the same. What better way to make a difference in your community than by helping to keep it clean, and encouraging others to do the same? If you don’t already recycle in your home, this is the perfect time to figure out how you can start. Ask your neighbors what days the recycling pick-ups happen, and start thinking about your trash before you toss! Recycling helps us minimize waste and keep the environment safe, plus it’s a great way to make a small, meaningful difference every day. Making an effort to never litter (or throw garbage out in the street), is another great way to keep your community clean and welcoming. Always wait until you get to a trash can to throw away your garbage, and if you see friends, family or neighbors littering, politely encourage them to do the same.

And if you have an idea for an awesome volunteer project, but you’re overwhelmed or not sure where to start, don’t give up! Share your ideas with friends, and brainstorm together. Working as a team, you will be able to figure out a game plan and make it happen.

Most importantly, always remember that what might seem like a very small gesture can really help turn someone’s day and even life, around. No amount of NICE is ever too little, and simply by making it a point to spread kindness wherever and whenever possible, you can make your community a better, happier, more positive place for everyone. And that is pretty awesome.