With everything going on in the world, it may seem like society is getting darker, it’s impossible to make a difference – there’s no hope. But that’s far from true, and it’s time to share the rest of the story… The Good News that each one of us can – and must make a difference!
In the 1930’s, anthropologist Margaret Mead conducted a study on cultural variation, trying to determine if differences in people’s emotional disposition – their attitudes – were the result of nature or nurture. Her final conclusion on her study has become a now famous quote:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead
Ms. Mead determined that the only way to change the world and create a more positive outlook was for people to take small steps – to be committed to improve attitudes and relationships through incremental favors done for others, known or unknown.
Random Acts of Kindness.
There are hundreds of stories of people whose lives were changed by one simple act by a stranger or friend who took the time. And how taking the time made the givers’ lives better too.
February 17 was Random Act of Kindness Day. Kicked off in Denver, CO, in 1995, the unofficial holiday has spread across the world. How can you participate? Here’s some ideas:
- Recognize the people who often get ignored. Learn and use the names of the people you see every day. The security guard at your office, apartment building, or bank. The receptionist at your office. The delivery people who always stop by. The barista who always serves your coffee with a smile.
- When greeted with a smile and a hello, almost everyone on the street or in the elevator will respond with a smile and a hello back, no matter how bad a mood they’re in. And that might even be enough to change that mood for the day.
- Let another car merge in front of you, or stop to let a pedestrian cross the street. I know, crazy, right?
- Hold the elevator or a door for someone coming behind you. Nobody’s in that much of a hurry.
- Here’s one most people don’t consider – let someone else help you. Give them the satisfaction of being kind as well.
- The next time you go to a hospital, bring flowers with you – to give to the ladies and men at the nurses station!
- Giving compliments is almost a lost art in today’s critical society. But if you look, there’s almost always an opportunity to make someone’s day by complimenting their outfit, hair, work, or ability to deal with people. And tell them! It’s not enough just to think it, share the love. People don’t hear how special they are nearly often enough.
- Go one step further – if you heard someone else get a compliment when they weren’t there, tell them, and add your own to it too!
- Start with a smile – make your first email of the day a quick couple sentences to a friend, letting them know you’re thinking of them or thanking them for being a good friend. You’ll both start the day on a higher note.
Say Thank You
Speaking of thanks… There are few words in the English language more powerful than “Thank You,” yet we use them more infrequently than we should.
- Make a point of saying thank you more often across the board.
- Thank outside the box – make a point of thanking someone who works to make a difference every day – police officers, military, fire fighters, EMT’s and teachers. And maybe that harried waitress you always see at your favorite family dining establishment. You can do this verbally, or, even better, give them a small thank you card.
- Create a culture of thankfulness – one company in Pennsylvania keeps a rack of thank you cards in their lobby – with stamps. They let anyone: employees, clients, or random visitors select a card to mail to anyone at any time. Look for ways you can make thankfulness a mindset not an afterthought at your workplace – or home.
- You Matter Marathon will let you sign up to get 30 “You Matter” cards to pass out to people.
We know it’s easier to just click send on an email or text, but there’s a certain power in tactile connection – having in your hands a card or a piece of paper that was held in another person’s hand while they were thinking about you.
- It doesn’t have to be a thank you. Or pages long. Think of the incredible people in your life and send them a hand-written letter telling them so.
- Drop a quick note in the mail letting someone you love know how much you care.
- When a newspaper or magazine article reminds you of someone, clip it out and mail it to them with a post-it note.
- On significant family holidays, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, remember any friends who have lost a parent, and the parents who have outlived their children. Getting an unexpected card can make their whole week.
Don’t Stop With People You Know
- Take advantage of Soldiers’ Angels or Operation Gratitude to send a hand-written letter to a member of the armed services – both on active duty and wounded.
- Love for the Elderly distributes letters to American seniors via senior centers and nonprofit organizations.
- Are you a teacher? Love for the Elderly also connects senior centers with elementary classrooms, building relationships through exchanged letters. Wisdom is shared, and both kids and elders feel more purpose and connection.
- Cards for Hospitalized Kids delivers cards to children in United States hospitals. You can also send postcards to sick kids, as well as their siblings through Send Kids the World. Other children often feel left out or neglected when their siblings is sick, and an encouraging post card makes their day too.
- More Love Letters has a database of people, submitted by a friend or family member who could benefit from letters of encouragement. Stop by, read a story or two and take a few minutes to make a difference. While you’re there, add to the list anyone you know who could use the same.
You may never meet them, but know you’re making a difference.
And these ideas are JUST the beginning of the difference you can make in the world. Next week, we’ll talk about more ways you can impact others and ways to be kind to our planet.
Now, go and do something kind!