For many, 2017 has been an especially challenging year. Between natural disasters, gun violence and politics, many seek refuge in holding their loved ones close and finding small ways to spread love and kindness. Mother Teresa once said, "Love cannot remain by itself, it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service." Love is more than a feeling. It must be practiced and given a true form. With 2018 fast-approaching, here are seven simple acts of kindness that you can use to spread love and joy to those around you in the new year.
Say Thank You
During the holidays, remember that there are still people who have to work. If you’re taking a trip on a national holiday, thank the bus drivers, train conductors, desk agents, gate agents, flight attendants, pilots, waitresses and cooks for working on the holiday and being away from their families and friends. It’s always a kind gesture to thank them regardless of the time of year.
Acknowledge Other Staff Members in Your Building
There are likely staff members at your workplace whom you don’t see as often as others. That doesn't mean that they're not working really hard to keep your school and office tidy and running smoothly every single day. When you do happen to cross paths with them, make it a point to introduce yourself, learn their name and thank them for everything they do for you and your colleagues behind the scenes. Let them know their work does not go unnoticed and you appreciate all that they do. If you don’t feel like you’ll ever cross paths with these colleagues, leave a note for them including these sentiments.
Give Someone a Card or Appreciation
At City Year, we understand the incredible importance of teamwork because we know it allows us to #makebetterhappen. Take time to give someone a token of your appreciation. This act of kindness can take shape in many forms, such as remembering their birthdays and surprising them with a homemade card signed by all the members of your team, making homemade treats to bring into the office, celebrating a teammate’s major win by treating them to a cup of coffee or leaving a note of appreciation at their desk for them to come back to.
Estimated Cost: $1 - $5
Doing something kind for someone else doesn’t always have to be about giving that person material objects. There are many local soup kitchens, food banks or homeless shelters where you can volunteer your time to contribute to the work that needs to be done in order to help those who are in dire need of food and shelter. You can also give your time to service projects that work to beautify schools and make them a safe space for students to learn and grow. City Year sites across the network put on events on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to do just that. Contact the City Year site closest to you and learn more about how you can volunteer.
Share a Special Skill
If you have a special skill or certification, offer your services for free at least once in 2018. If you’re a lawyer, take on a pro bono case; if you’re a doctor, give free physicals, flu shots or preventative health seminars for one day out of the year; if you’re a photographer, have a contest and pick someone who deserves a free photoshoot or photography at an event of their choice; if you’re particularly great at writing cover letters and resumes or optimizing your LinkedIn account, provide a free tutorial teaching high school and college students the best practices for showcasing their best selves. These are just a handful of ways you can share your talents and skills for the greater good.
Treat A Stranger to Coffee
If you’re feeling generous or can afford to do this, pay for the next person in line behind you in a drive-thru line. Who knows, if you leave a message with the cashier encouraging the person behind you to pay it forward (or backward, in this case), the person behind you may do the same for the person behind them as well! Check out this really great story about how this happened for hundreds of people at a Starbucks in Pennsylvania.
Estimated Cost: Depends on what the person behind you ordered, but in the case of a cup of coffee, around $4 - $5.
Donate Books or School Supplies
Donate school materials you don’t need any more to under resourced schools that are in need of supplies. Make sure the books are appropriate for an educational setting and going to a school where they are age appropriate as well. High schoolers probably don’t want to read The Berenstain Bears books (although there are plenty of great life lessons in there) and third graders probably don’t want to read To Kill a Mockingbird (…yet). Don’t let those classics you’ve already read collect dust on your bookshelves when they could be in the hands of students with inquisitive minds and incredible imaginations.
Cost: Free, except for what you already paid for the books or supplies in the past.
Regardless of what it is, if someone does something kind for you, make it your mission to pay it forward for someone else, too. It could be the same act of kindness shown to you, or something totally different! What’s important is that we continue to be kind to others and practice love and joy throughout 2018 and beyond.
The cost of bringing a smile to someone else’s face all year long? Absolutely priceless.