I write all the time about doing for others as a way of improving our own lives. Generally, as elders in the community, we have more time and more resources to help others. People, however, are always asking what I mean specifically by doing for others. They want my suggestions for things they might do.
So, whether it’s that you’re feeling empty, lonely, sad, left out, or whether you’re lamenting the past or worried about the future, doing for others works to shift you into a better space.
Here are thirty ways to benefit others depending on the time, money and energy you have available:
- Read to a child or to someone who isn’t able to read to themselves.
- Volunteer anywhere, doing anything. Check out your local Volunteer Center.
- Take someone on a trip with you, even if it’s to the mall, church or lunch.
- Sew, crochet or knit something for someone else: caps for preemies, blankets for homeless.
- Tutor in reading for middle-schoolers or foreigners for whom English isn’t their first language.
- Work in a soup kitchen or participate in a food bank a couple times a month.
- Be a crossing guard.
- Be a mentor.
- Listen to a child … without speaking except to ask for further information or to provide encouragement. (This is a MOST powerful tool in the giving arena. It doesn’t cost anything, and what child doesn’t want the attention of an adult?)
- Do the work to become a Court Child Advocate.
- Pet the kittens or walk the dogs at the Humane Society.
- Work as a volunteer for your local Park Service.
- Work at your Senior Center.
- Pay off one or two layaway accounts at a local store … anonymously.
- Leave flowers on the doorstep of someone you know who is experiencing difficulty in life right now.
- Send someone you know a magazine subscription they’d like … anonymously.
- Randomly post something complimentary about someone on social media.
- Do something special during the holidays for people you know are alone: leave an Easter basket, a Halloween bag filled with candy, a Christmas wreath, and flowers for any occasion.
- Put a pre-paid card (Starbucks’ or other retailer available at grocery stores) in someone’s mailbox.
- Begin a prayer practice for people you know who will benefit from your good thoughts.
- Offer to drive … anyone … anytime … anywhere.
- Be willing to shop for another.
- Provide for the homeless in either time, energy or money. Including just listening; it matters.
- Hold the door open … always.
- Deliver a sincere compliment every day for a month. Then do it again.
- Send a “Thank You” note to a member of your family … just because.
- Share your garden’s bounty with neighbors.
- Pay for someone else’s meal the next time you ask for the check.
- The next time you see a lemonade stand, leave a really big tip.
- Don’t interrupt when someone else is speaking, ‘nuf said.
I bet you could add a lot to this list.
Doing for others is medicine.
It heals what ails us.