There are many ways we can be of service in the world. Even small acts of compassion can go a long ways. I think it’s more effective than donating money.
Of course, everyone needs money and it’s great to contribute to something we believe in, but money is service at a distance. It doesn’t alleviate the heart the way genuine human kindness does.
When we hand over a plate of hot food at a soup kitchen or save an abused animal, we’re connecting with another living being. We’re touching hands or fur, sharing a smile or a word.
Even if you’re shy and don’t like to be in groups there are many low-key, private ways to help lift someone’s spirit or ease an animal’s suffering:
1. Do you like to cook? Bake some extra pies and donate them to a homeless shelter.
2. Become a virtual mentor for a teen through a site like icouldbe.org.
3. Volunteer at a local school. Many schools are short staffed and welcome community involvement.
4. Knit or crochet afghans or scarves and take them to your local senior center.
5. Offer to babysit for a friend. You serve the adult, who could use a night out, and being around kids is often uplifting.
6. Volunteer to shop for a sick neighbor.
7. Volunteer for a crisis hotline.
8. Offer to take an elderly person shopping, to the movies or just for a drive.
9. Volunteer to read to children at your library’s story hour.
10. Put together a hygiene kit for a homeless person that includes toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, etc.
11. If you pass a panhandler, take them out for a hot meal. Listen to their story.
12. Volunteer at your local animal shelter. If you’re able, adopt a shelter dog or cat. If you can’t make a long-term commitment, you might consider becoming a temporary foster parent for a shelter animal until they find a permanent home.
13. Send a card to a hospitalized kid through a site like cardsforhospitalizedkids.com or to someone in the military through a site like amillionthanks.org.
14. Rake, shovel or clean for an elderly neighbor.
15. Donate blood. You never know when your blood will save someone’s life.
16. Color (alone or with your child) and donate the picture to Color A Smile.
17. Do you have a special talent? Offer to do a free one-day workshop at a low-income community center or battered women’s shelter.
18. Offer to teach someone to read.
19. Donate your used books or clothing to a shelter.
20. Do small acts of service throughout the day—hold the door for people, let someone go in front of you at the grocery store if they have fewer items. Smile.
Once you begin to think of ways to help, the possibilities are endless. You are giving to the world, and as a result you’ll find yourself thinking less of your own problems and your heart will begin softening.
When we approach life with an attitude of service we develop empathy. It’s no longer about us, but about what someone else needs.
We can help ease another’s suffering, but we’re not responsible for saving them. We need to accept that sometimes our service isn’t wanted or appreciated and if necessary, we need to step back and let them go.
Some people don’t want to be saved.
It doesn’t matter. Being of service isn’t about accolades or praise. It’s about healing the world and us by taking tiny steps to make the planet a better, more compassionate place for all the creatures that share it.
Blog by Leslie Jordan Clary