1. Give Blood: If you meet the criteria, you can make a world of difference to someone in a short amount of time by doing this. It’s worth getting over an aversion to needles.
2. Donate Monthly: Find a cause that resonates with you, or an organization that does work you admire. It could be a disaster-relief charity, a public radio or television station, a local theater company, an environmental group, an organization dedicated to curing or treating people with a particular disease, etc. You’ll know you’ve hit upon a worthy one when it fulfills the criterion: “I’d like to see more of THIS kind of thing in the world!” Make sure you’ve witnessed or experienced their work firsthand in some way, or have researched what they do thoroughly enough that you’re confident that your own dollars would be well spent supporting them. Call them, thank them, and offer your stamp of approval/encouragement/support by setting up a payment plan to make automatic monthly donations to them. Think of it as an ongoing investment in creating the world you want to live in and want for future generations, as well. The nice thing about the monthly commitment is that you are solidifying and habituating your alignment with a cause that you value. You’re “putting your money where your mouth is” in such a way that it happens automatically, without your even having to think about it as you go about your daily activities. If your financial status changes you can always increase or decrease the amount of the donation at any time. If after an exhaustive search you cannot find a single organization that is doing the work you truly believe needs to be done in the world, then start your own!
3. Volunteer: Another, more personal, way to contribute is to volunteer your time, energy, and/or talents to something. Because let’s face it: without actual people doing actual things, all of the money in the world isn’t going to change anything. I recommend finding a cause you are enthusiastic enough about supporting that you are willing to do tasks for them that you might not otherwise be moved to do, and/or finding something you already enjoy doing and offering your services for free where there is a need. You might be surprised at how much appreciation can be thrown your way just for “showing up”. There is endless need, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding an outlet for volunteering. Some examples include: answering phones at a fund drive for a favorite public radio station, feeding the homeless, teaching adults who can’t read via a local literacy program, helping kids with their homework at an after-school program, handing out food/drinks to the participants in a race or charity walk, or even volunteering to babysit your grandchild. I have personally found an amazing and gratifying avenue for volunteering thanks to my girlfriend, Samantha, who referred me to it shortly after we first met. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center here in Los Angeles has a program called “Music for Healing” in which musicians volunteer their time to come in and literally wander from room to room, playing music for and hanging out with patients, their families and visitors, and hospital staff. I have a blast doing it – if it’s half as therapeutic for those I play for and interact with as it is for me, then I’m doing some serious spirit-lifting!
4. Be Kind: Treat people kindly, even when you’re sure they don’t deserve it. Be generous in offering smiles, which cost nothing. Use your creativity to surprise people with unexpected treats and gestures of goodwill. Do this for your closest loved ones as well as complete strangers. Act as if everyone else in the world is really a part of you, and so by doing for others you’re actually doing for yourself (you are!). Watch Groundhog Day for additional ideas!
5. Get Happy: Find out what makes you happy (personal caveat: without causing harm to others or their property) and do more of it. Experiment, try new things, keep adding items/activities to your happiness repertoire until it’s overflowing, and keep this “list” with you at all times so that you can readily combat bad moods. Cultivate the skill of being able to make yourself happy on a moment’s notice. The world can use happier people. Play your part in increasing the world’s happiness quotient!
Thanks for everything you do to make your immediate environment and, in turn, the world, a better place for all of us.