There is a notion that circulates year-round but picks up around the holidays – the idea of “Random Acts of Kindness.” It is a wonderful sentiment that allows someone to use their resources to provide a little extra “lift” to someone’s day by doing something nice without being prompted. One of the challenges of these acts of kindness is that they often involve paying for something; for example, sometimes, people pay for coffee/donuts for the next person in line.
I have collected some ideas of Random Acts of Kindness that don’t require a lot of money, and/or uses items that you may already have lying around – it focuses on the idea of donating your time and talents to either help other people or brighten their day. Some of these acts are seasonal and therefore will not apply to just any time; some of them are “seize the moment” ideas, but in any case, these are ways in which you can help to make someone’s life just a little bit brighter.
Brightening the day of the elderly:
Have your children make cards/pictures and deliver to an elder-care home – the women at CTWM recently hosted an event at the Colchester Library where they invited kids to make cards to deliver at a local elder-care home; our local youth groups have done the same. Have your children, their friends, or classrooms make cards and have them deliver them in person.
While you’re there (at the elder care home), read to the residents – I have found that the residents of the elder care home just love having outside visitors. Offer to read for someone who needs a little extra company or has terrible eyesight. You will make their day.
Helping your local agencies:
Purge your items (clothes or toys) on a local tag sale site and use the proceeds to buy goods for your social services agency – our town has a tag sale Facebook page, much like I’m sure many of your towns do. As most people are usually looking for a bargain, you don’t make a whole lot of money off of the clothes, toys and household goods that you sell but collectively over time, it can add up. Throw the money that you get ($5 here, $10 there) into a jar and at the end of the year, use it to buy items that they need (note: most agencies will need personal products as those are NOT covered by SNAP).
Donate your time and supplies during the “off-season” (non holidays) – I recently saw an article somewhere that indicated that soup kitchens and social services agencies often have an overflow of donations and volunteers during November and December because, after all, “’tis the season.” In turn, what it also means is that during the summertime, supplies and help are very low or are nonexistent. If you choose to run a food drive, do so in the summertime; if you choose to help in the food kitchen, help out in August when volunteers and supplies are at their lowest.
Run a collection drive to collect hotel-sized soap, shampoo and personal goods – shelters and social services agencies are often need “personal products” – soap, shampoo, toothbrush/paste, combs, feminine products. Set up a collection box through your office, school or local agency (post office?), promote the initiative, and encourage potential donors to bring home the little soaps and other personal products the next time they stay at a hotel (the guest is, after all, paying for these items through their nightly fee). When the box fills up, deliver it to the local shelter.
Helping friends and neighbors:
Offer to “take the kids” – when I was at my first job out of college, I had a person on my team who had two young kids. A friend of mine and I wanted to see some Disney movie but we thought it was weird to go without little kids, so we offered to take my colleague’s kids to the movies while they got a few hours to themselves. I didn’t understand at the time why his wife was so excited about it, and was very appreciative when she offered to pay for our movie tickets. Offer to a mom of young kids (who trusts you) to “take the kids” – it doesn’t have to be mom that you know well, as long as they trust you.
Help someone who has a flat tire or needs a jump-start – I am always amazed at how many people just “drive by” whenever someone is disabled at the side of the road. When I am local (to my town), I will often cautiously stop unless traffic does not allow; always with my door locked for safety, and ask if they need me to make a phone call. In at least two occasions, these people have accepted. Once we were at our ballet school and a lady was stuck in the parking lot with a dead battery. She came into the school to use the phone to call AAA (as our area is a cellphone deadzone), and my husband offered to jumpstart her car (note: If you don’t have jumper cables or a tire jack, it’s probably a good idea to throw one into your car in case YOU ever need it).
Clear the snow off of someone’s car – this is one of my personal favorites – at my old office, parking was all outdoors. Anytime it snowed, I had to clear the snow off my own car when I left at the end of the day. Since I had the snow brush and ice scraper out anyways, I usually cleared the snow off of neighboring cars, too. It only took a few extra minutes and saved them a lot of hassle.
Help someone load their groceries in their car, or let someone with fewer items go in front of you in line – no explanation needed here but you will need to find someone who is willing to accept your offer.
Organize a group to go Christmas Caroling – some of you might find this idea cheesy, but I personally love it. There have been studies that have shown that music has a tremendous impact on the brain and one’s mood. Right before Christmas, organize a group to go Christmas Caroling and hit the restaurants and other public places in your town. Even if the patrons don’t celebrate Christmas, I guarantee that they will smile at the effort.