What’s Next, America?
It’s been a bit of a week, America.
(Don’t worry, this isn’t really about politics.)
I thought the weeks leading up to the presidential election were crazy, but the aftermath has been downright bonkers. And unfortunately, ugly in some cases. I get it — people are worried about our country’s future, while others celebrate a new direction. I’m somewhere in the middle, if that’s even possible these days. But I digress.
It’s fine to disagree with others over politics, social issues, or whatever the latest Twitter fad seems to be. In fact, disagreements and discussions are important to the democratic process. But disagreeing doesn’t mean you can be a jerk about it. Offering a little kindness to others, especially to those who disagree with us, is far more productive than yelling at each other or trolling social media.
Rather than rehashing the issues that led us to the vast division in this country, I think it’s important to start focusing on how to impact change in between elections, regardless of which side of aisle you’re on right now. There are a lot of people in our backyards who are struggling. Some issues are related to political or social policy, but we all deal with the general ups and downs of life.
There are many simple things we can do in our own communities to start making a difference today. Whether you’re passionate about a particular cause, want to help children and/or families, or just want to support your own friends and family, here are some ideas to get you started.
- Schedule visits to a local nursing home or hospital. Many nursing home patients get few visitors. Having someone to talk to can brighten their day. Hospitals often have volunteer opportunities for everything from visiting patients to helping make up baskets for fundraisers.
- Check with local schools to see about offering help to teachers. Teachers often need an extra hand with things like decorating bulletin boards, organizing bookshelves, or setting up activities/centers. This is an easy way to get involved in your child’s education.
- Become a mentor. Many communities and school systems offer mentoring programs for at-risk students. Some are after school, but some can be done during the student’s day at school, depending on what fits your own schedule.
- Special Olympics is always looking for volunteers for local events and even coaching opportunities. There are a wide range of activities and time commitments. There are even buddy teams where you can participate in the activity with the Olympian.
- Start a babysitting exchange with friends and family. Set up a call list for those families willing to babysit your kids in exchange for you occasionally taking theirs. This can be done on a set schedule, or on an as needed for those last-minute errands.
- Talk to a local animal shelter about helping care for animals. Yes, sometimes this means cleaning a litterbox or two. But playing with the animals afterwards is worth finishing the not-so-pleasant jobs.
Have a particular cause you support? Whether your passions involve political, cultural, environmental, or social policies, being actively involved in groups that promote your cause is a great place to start. Giving donations to these organizations is helpful, but if you really want to make a difference, take direct action. If there’s not currently a local chapter of an organization you support, start your own. Odds are there are at least a few people in your area who feel the same way you do. Utilize your friends and social media to spread the word.
There are groups for pretty much every cause imaginable, so do a little research online to find local chapters and/or contact national offices to find out how to start a local chapter.
The quickest, and easiest, way to make a difference in your community is by helping others. You occasionally hear about Random Acts of Kindness events, but try to make this an everyday deal. This can be as simple as holding the door open for someone behind you to something more planned like sending care packages. We all go through challenges and need a little help once in a while. Even the smallest gesture helps people know they are appreciated, and can make the hard days a little brighter.
- Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line.
- Send a handwritten note to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.
- If you are involved in a church, talk with the pastor about things you can to do help other members (offering a ride to someone who can’t drive, substituting as a Sunday school teacher, etc…)
- Organize a block party to get to know your neighbors better.
- Ask friends and neighbors to collect items for a food bank, homeless shelter, or domestic violence shelter.
- Write thank you notes to your child’s teachers and principal.
- Organize a day where people gather to help pick up litter at a local park.
- Buy several $5 gift cards and put them on random cars in the parking lot at work. Attach a note to tell the recipient to pay it forward.
- Host a free car washing day for your street.
There are countless ways to get involved in your communities to help both friends and strangers. Sometimes, A simple gesture can mean the world to someone. Whether you want to help those closest to you, or get involved in bringing about social change, you can start with opportunities in your own communities.
Don’t just talk about wanting change. Go out and find ways to make it happen.
*What are some ways you can take action to make your community stronger?