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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

People with the best intentions sometimes get overwhelmed by the idea of charity. They think they need a great deal of time or money or courage to make a real difference in the world. But you don't have to be a philanthropist to help. Anne Herbert said, "Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty;” by doing this, you can help every day with small but important acts of encouragement and generosity.

Write a letter to a stranger. It only takes a few minutes to write, but a letter can make someone else's day, or even their week. Think of all the people who are lonely, isolated or just in need of cheering up: soldiers fighting overseas, kids in juvenile detention centers or elderly people in nursing homes. Do a simple search online and you'll find services that will provide you with list of people who'd love to hear from you. Put someone else first. If you get to the grocery store check-out line at the same time as someone else, you can decide to smile and wave them through first. Or, when you're stuck in traffic and the last thing you want to do is let a car get in front of you, just remember that somebody else had to let you in, and repay the favor to the next person! Say thank you. Think of all the people in your life whose faces and names you'll never know but who serve and protect you day after day. Send some prepackaged treats to your local police or fire department with a card letting them know how much you appreciate their service to the community. (Since homemade desserts could be contaminated, they will probably not be eaten.)

Compliment someone. There's usually an awkward silence when you're stuck in an elevator with a stranger. Instead of staring at the floor, find something you like about the other person and compliment him/her on it. Not only will it make him/her feel good, it just might kick off a conversation with a new friend. Offer helping hands. Do you ever see homeless people and feel overwhelmed by your inability to make a difference? Even if you can't save them all, you can do a lot with one small act. Buy a pair of gloves or dig up an old blanket, and give them to someone who's living in the cold streets or to any organization that serves the homeless. Clean up. The next time you see someone littering, don't just shake your head and look the other way. Pick up the litter and throw it away, and while you're at it, look around the street for any other trash that needs to be removed. If you take a walk, take a plastic grocery bag so you can collect the trash that would otherwise just make you unhappy, and know that you're doing a random act of kindness for the people who will come through after you!

Cheer someone up. Maybe you know someone who's had a horrible day. Send them some flowers or give them a warm hug to make them feel better. Everyone needs just a little extra love sometimes. Send a message. Write down your favorite poem on happiness or jot down some thoughts on hope, then leave it somewhere for a stranger to find. Or try the most random method of all: Put a message in a bottle and toss it into the ocean. You never know who will receive it - or how much they might need it. Forgive somebody. You'd be amazed at the ripple effect an ounce of forgiveness can have in your life and in the lives of others. Share a smile. When meeting a new person, or even chatting with an old one, express joy. Show that you're happy to be with them, and that they make you happy.


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