Before I end my day and head to bed each night, I create a list of to-do things for the following day. Along with the other tasks, I include my favorite thing to-do for the day in my list: random act(s) of kindness, which is my favorite thing to-do for the day out of all other tasks. Among my set of goals, making a difference in the world remains as one of my top personal life goals and purposes and a priority.
This year, I wanted to make a bigger difference in my personal life as well as in the society. Consequently, I started performing a random act of kindness on a regular basis and began to keep a planner/journal to write down things and steps that I can take to make a significant change in my overall life as well as the society in general. To make a change around you, is not an impossible daunting task as it may seem. If every human being willingly takes little steps towards kindness and humanity each day, soon this world will be a much better place to live. Making a difference around you doesn’t usually cost you thousands of dollars or mean that you need to sacrifice all your time for 10 different worthy causes. Having a thoughtful mindset and a caring heart would be the only things you would need to start making a change in the world that we live in. But, this change first begins with you. Once you’ve taken the first step—by wanting to make a change—then, you can gradually take bigger steps in making a change around the community you live in and then the country and finally, the world. Remember, it’s about getting started and not stopping.
When you know you want to do something for a positive change—however big or small— in your life or other people’s lives, you can begin by making small gestures that would be meaningful and thoughtful for others around you. If you do choose to do a random act of kindness each day as a beginning step, remember that you are already making a big difference in the world by being a kind and considerate human.
Here are 20 ways to make a difference in the world by being kind which wouldn’t cost you much or at all.
- Donate blood.
Donating blood to a person who’s in urgent need of blood may be one of the noblest things you can do in your lifetime. My father has been donating blood ever since he was 35 and he has always encouraged all of us in the family to be a frequent blood donator. He donates blood a few times a year and god knows how many lives he has saved so far. Donating blood helps blood banks to readily have access to all types of blood and save thousands of lives in emergency situations. When you donate blood, you’re not only saving the person’s life but also saving his family members’ lives from despair.
- Share your food.
As a kid, I used to share my lunch with my friends during the interval. I would always bring extra sweetmeats or cake to share with my classmates. When I was in college, I even cooked Sri Lankan meals for my college friends and even now as a teacher, I always share my food with my students. Particularly, on special events, I share coffee or a soft drink and cake with my students and they always love the treat! You can even share your lunch with your colleagues at work which would create more positivity around your work buddies.
- Write a random thank you note/email/letter for someone who has influenced you in some way and make sure to send it to them.
It is always exciting to receive mail or a note from people that you love and care about. Isn’t it? What about being the person to send some love on someone’s way? Write a thank you note or a letter for a person who has influenced you in some ways or has given you something to be thankful for. This could be your teachers, family members who have been there for you during a hard time or a friend who has helped you with a difficult situation. Let them know that you’re thankful for what they did and how much it means to you. It will absolutely make their day memorable.
- Pay a visit to an elderly person/elderly care center or an orphanage
In Sri Lanka, there are children orphanages for the abandoned or homeless children where the kids will be given free meals and reasonable education facilities to help them learn different skills until they are able to support themselves. The elderly care centers, on the other hand, accommodate the elderly people who are homeless and/or aren’t supported by their kids and these senior citizens are provided with shelter and food for free. (These centers often accept generous donations of any amount to keep the places running.) While it is extremely sad why these centers have to exist in the first place because no kid should be ever abandoned by their parents and the elderly parents should be looked after and not be abandoned by the young sons and daughters, this issue will be kept aside to be discussed on another post later for now. But, having said that, I do what I can to address this issue and on my birthday each year, I visit an elderly care center or a children orphanage (usually I visit a few times a year as well) and give them free stationery, a good meal, treats and spend time with them that day. These kids love visitors and people who care enough to visit them. If I visit an elderly care center, I make sure to take reading materials and medicines for them which they aren’t able to afford to buy. While it may require me to put some extra effort in preparing food and saving enough for the gifts and other items, I absolutely love doing this and I make sure my friends and family also take part in this kind deed with me. If you don’t know such place or a center, you can pay a visit to people who are in need of extra love, care and affection like your grandparents or even your friend’s grandparents.
- Make personal greeting cards for family and friends.
As a kid, I loved making personal greeting cards for my family and friends. I also loved receiving them. It only takes a little time and effort to make a personal greeting card but it will definitely make the receiver feel immensely loved. You can be creative and make cards from recycling materials which means it won’t even cost you as much if you bought a card from a store. Just make sure to include a personal heart-warming message or a poem to make them feel extra special!
- Praise someone on their achievements.
Achieving something in life is hard and some of us can often use a little bit of motivation and encouragement. The first steps of a baby may not seem like a big achievement for another adult but for the baby and his parents, these steps are magical and since, no achievement is small or insignificant. So, next time your friend tells you that they passed their exam with good grades or when your co-worker finishes their training successfully, don’t be reluctant to tell them ‘Well done’. When your loved ones have achieved something and share the details with you, always praise them for their hard work and effort. You’re not only making a difference around you but also strengthening your relationships and bonds with people.
- Plant a tree or more if you can!
If you are irresponsible with taking care of the nature, it’s time to rethink. The nature is the lifeblood of our whole existence. Make it a priority to care for nature. It’s the least you can do for the world as a human being. Plant tress in your garden and utilize thousands of resources online about how to plant different crops under different weathers. Even if you have less space, you can grow a plant in a pot or sow several plants in half-cut pipes. Let your kids plant trees and teach them the value of caring for the nature. Be a role model for them by planting a tree in your garden and watch it grow together with your young kids. Know that you’re being a great human by putting so many good things out there in the universe.
- Offer a helping hand to a person
Every one of us needs a helping hand sometimes and you might have been in situations where you wish if you had someone to lend you a hand but there wasn’t anyone around. Whenever I am traveling by bus, I offer to carry bags or books of the people who are standing and don’t have a seat. You can always lend a hand to your neighbor to mow their lawn or help your friend carry their groceries. You can even offer to help finish your classmate’s projects. Take a look around, you will find more than enough people who could use a helping hand.
- Be polite to others.
Be polite and respect others: online, offline and in real life. Use ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ whenever possible. Watch your tone when you are speaking to someone and avoid using negative, hatred comments. Respect other people’s needs, opinions and their concerns. Remember that the way a person treats others reveals a lot about their character. Never let a person down with your words because the harsh words that you spoke thoughtlessly can never be taken back even if you wanted.
- Spend time with your loved ones, friends and family or people that doesn’t have a family.
This can be similar to no. 4. The people and kids who live in elderly care centers and children orphanages need love, affection and care. They value the time that you spend with them than any materialistic thing you might buy for them. Similarly, spending time with your loved ones must not be one of your to-do list tasks. It must be a priority. You can take small vacations together with you family members and if that isn’t something you can afford right now, then you can always spend time with them at breakfast or dinner. Have funny, family conversations and create harmony around the house that you live in to make a positive place for everybody who lives under that roof. During dinner, I spend time with my parents and have a good laugh. It creates positivity and brings peace to the stressful minds of most of us who work all day. Another thing you can easily make happen is weekend activities for the family to do together. This could be going to the cinema or going on a picnic to a nearest park and enjoying some quality family time. Remember, not everyone is blessed with a wonderful family. Cherish your family if you have one and be the family to people who don’t have one.
- Donate your used clothes.
This is something I grew up doing as a young kid and still continues to do as a grown-up. I learned this from my mother as she always donated her clothes to the poor. Who knows, someday—god forbids—you might be in the situation where you can’t afford clothes. When I first landed in America, I only had one coat and soon my first winter experience occurred. I was barely able to buy a new coat (those good ones are so expensive!) as I didn’t have a job at that time and needed to save up for college. One of my friend’s mothers took me to a place and bought a coat for $5. Take a minute and think how a good deed of a thoughtful person who donated the coat in the first place helped an international student to stay warm during the winter in an unknown country. Amazing, isn’t it? Thank you, you awesome person!
As a family, all my family members donate and give away new or used clothes frequently. Most of my relatives also take part in this kind deed. (I am very lucky to be blessed with a family and relatives that are also kind and caring.)
- Buy a meal for a homeless person.
We always bump into people who may need extra affection and care from the society but we never actually stop to give them what they need. Instead, we pass because we don’t even notice they are there. Next time you see a homeless person, buy them a meal, a snack or a coffee. Giving them money may make them happy. But giving them a meal will make them feel thankful for life and good people. Even better, if you have extra snacks or homemade food, pack a few in a nice box and give it to a homeless person. Watch their smile. This is the essence of life for me.
- Give someone a hug.
Hugs are amazing! They can instantly make a day better and produce so much positivity in your system. Hugs are a way of passing love and care from one person to another. So, give someone a hug when they are feeling low. When you’re home from work, hug your loved ones and even pets.
- Give away the things that you don’t use anymore.
How many items, electric appliances or pieces of furniture are lying around in your house that you no longer even use? Don’t just get rid of them by throwing them out, unless they are broken and cannot be used, donate your things to a charity or people who may need them. Look up in your local newspapers, websites to find people who need certain items but don’t have enough money to buy them. If you are generous, you can give away your unwanted items for these people who need them.
- Dedicate a considerable amount of your time for a great cause.
There are thousands of worthy causes and find one that applies to your ideas, purposes and beliefs. Join a supportive group and continue to take actions towards supporting your cause. You can take part in various activities organized by the supporters and sacrifice some of your spare time for a good cause that helps making a difference in the world. You can even support a cause that you care about and get others to participate by organizing different activities. Your life will be more inspirational and meaningful.
- Be generous with compliments.
Compliments are a way to boost self-esteem and increase positivity levels in a person. A sincere compliment—even from a stranger—will instantly brighten up someone’s day. Be generous with your compliments at work, in school and around the house and be sincere about what you’re complimenting them on.
- Pay for the coffee, meal, or the bus fare for the person behind you.
Once I was ordering a sandwich and a coffee at Hawk’s Landing (our college student lounge/food court), the total exceeded—by a quarter or a few—to the amount of money I had with me. It may not seem like a noteworthy, but the guy next to me handed over money to the lady and paid for me without even thinking about it twice. It wasn’t about how small the deed was but I still remember that guy because of the kindness that he showed me that day. People like him are a blessing. Thank you, you awesome person!
While you may not have a lot of money with you, if you get a chance, pay for the meal or coffee for the person who’s in front of or behind in line with you. Their day will start with a bright positive note and end much more nicely than an ordinarily day. Also, you’re likely to stay in their heart forever because people always remember these special gestures made for them by anyone, anywhere.
- Cheer up someone.
If your friend is feeling blue or your colleague is stressed about work-related issues, take them away on a lunch out or a movie they would enjoy and would keep them from thinking negative thoughts. Before find a solution for any issue he or she is dealing with, your friend first needs to have a positive attitude and be attentive not absentminded. Help them get to that stage by cheering them up. Show them that you’re there for them by checking up on them or listening to them when they reach out to you. Most of us are very simple and it doesn’t take a lot to make us happy if you give it a try. Undeniably, making someone smile and cheer up is one of the most heart-warming things you can do and experience because seeing them happy will also bring happiness your way.
- Buy school supplies for children who can’t afford it.
If you know a friend who has kids and is currently unemployed, imagine how hard it must be for the kids with their studies. Kids constantly need school supplies because they use up quite fast. You can buy text books or even lend if you have extra for children who need them. I buy books and stationery in bulk once a year and keep them stacked so whenever a kid’s or a student’s birthday comes, I wrap up several books and stationary together nicely and surprise them with the random gift! Even for my last birthday—which was only a couple of weeks ago—I did the same thing and surprised my students with a nice gift of school supplies. My birthday was much more memorable and meaningful than spending money to buy some lavish dress for me.
- Help someone find a job.
Jobs are hard to come by these days for some people. Staying unemployed for anyone, on the other hand, is a nightmare in today’s world where everyone else is competing and forcing themselves to earn a living. If you know someone who’s currently jobless, help them find a job by placing an advertisement on the web or putting in good word for them with your colleagues and bosses who are hiring. Your friend will forever be thankful for the good deed you’ve done.
The list of kind things you can do for people is endless. I’ve only listed 20 of them which can be done frequently or whenever you have a chance for a less amount of money. Spread kindness and joy wherever you go. You’ll see the difference you make in the world reflecting in your own life. After all,
“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” -Aesop