I’ve felt a little overwhelmed lately with how many disasters, both natural and man-made, have plagued our world in recent years. I feel like every time I open a news website or scroll through my Facebook feed, there is always something else that has happened: earthquakes, mass shootings, hurricanes, flooding, kidnappings, beatings, car accidents, bombings and the list goes on. I’d like to think that maybe I just wasn’t as aware of them when I was growing up because access to technology was so much more limited. But I’m scared and I’m sad, because I think the truth is that those things are becoming more frequent, as much as I want to believe otherwise. So many faces and names and tragedies and hardships that it’s easy to feel helpless, or even like what little I could possibly do doesn’t matter. What can I do when I feel like the world is falling apart? How can I help others?
Get involved in community projects, charities and fundraisers
All year long, but especially with the holidays approaching, there are opportunities to get involved in various projects in the community. My kids are still fairly young (5 and 3) but I remember how excited they were last year to go to the local elementary school, pick an ornament off the Angel Tree and go to the store and buy a gift for a child in our surrounding neighborhoods so they would have something for Christmas. Every year at Christmas, my daughter has been performing with her dance studio at a local nursing home for the residents to enjoy. Just this year, a friend in my neighborhood organized a drop off at her home for people to drop by anything from a large list of needed items for refugees. She also put together a large yard sale and bake sale to raise money for the same cause. Another friend of mine is overseeing a fundraiser for Operation Underground Railroad which is an organization that rescues children from sex trafficking. If you’re not currently aware of what’s going on in your area, ask around at your school, city center, food bank or even friends for help or suggestions on where to start. Contributing in even small ways here and there may not seem like much to you, but for someone who has nothing, it will mean so much.
Look for, and buy from, companies that give back
When I need something for my home or a gift for my friend, my first instinct is to look online or at a local store. However, I’ve found that there are a ton of companies who strive to help by giving back a portion, or sometimes all, of their proceeds to places or people in need. Generally they are small shops or businesses owned by independent consultants, so they might not be as easy to locate unless you look for them. One company that I love is called Color by Amber. Color by Amber employs artisans from around the world including Madagascar, Peru, Nepal, Morocco, Senegal and others to create pieces that are unique, beautiful and handmade. The items that specifically come from the Full Circle collection help fund initiatives for infrastructure development, training and quality of life projects. I was recently sent some of their skinny bracelets and I’ve been so impressed with their quality and beauty. Not to mention that they are lightweight and eco-friendly. Right now, they are donating $5 from every Puerto Rico bracelet they sell to aid with Hurricane Maria. They are also donating money this month for Breast Cancer Awareness and $5 from each Kiss Cancer Goodbye necklace goes to The Breast Cancer Research Association. Color by Amber is just one example of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of companies that give back.
Organize your own service project
If you’re feeling motivated, go ahead and organize your own service project! When members from the community join together for a common cause, it builds friendships and fosters good will towards others. There are so many ways to serve ranging from helping a neighbor in need to collecting needed items for a food or clothing bank to making blankets for a shelter to holding a bake sale and donating the money to a local charity. My little next door neighbor and her friend recently organized a drive for hurricane victims. She and her friend raised $300 to buy supplies from the store to send on a truck driving out to help. If you feel the desire to do something, don’t let not knowing what to do hold you back. Talk to friends and family and use their connections and skills to make it a success. Anything you are able to do will help because you are giving to people who need something that you are able to provide.
Donate to a reputable charity
Sometimes money might be the best way to help, or maybe one of the ways you feel you can help best. Each month, we donate 10% of our monthly income to our church. As our clergy is unpaid, we trust our church leaders to distribute the funds to those who they are aware of that need help in the congregation. There are other reputable charities and non-profit organizations you can donate to if you want to assist in a specific way. You can find a full list here by category.
Step outside yourself and serve others
When it all comes down to it, just step outside yourself and see who around you needs help. I promise that if you look, you’ll see it: the single mom who hasn’t had a night out in months because she has no one to watch her kids or money to pay for a sitter. A neighbor who can’t pull their garbage can out to the street or back up to their house due to age or health. A stranger whose day could be made a little better by a kind word and smile. There is a hymn we sing in church called “Have I Done Any Good?” by Will L. Thompson that I love:
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad, and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today, because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?
There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying “Sometime I’ll try.”
But go and do something today.
‘Tis noble of men, to work and to give;
Love’s labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be known.
Then wake up and do something more,
Than dream of your mansions above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.
As you’ve read through this post, I hope you’ve been uplifted and strengthened. I hope you leave this page with a desire to do something to make a difference in someone’s life, whether it’s someone you know or someone you’ll never meet. I know it’s not always easy to feel positive about what’s happening in the world today, but each of us has something to give that has the power to help someone else. “No act of kindness (or service), no matter how small, is ever wasted.”