One of my all-time favorite quotes is:
“I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children.
I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden.
I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”
-Marjorie Pay Hinckley
Obviously, I love gifts…but you may or may not know from reading my blog that my favorite types of gifts to give are the kind that AREN’T for a specific holiday. I love to give gifts when I feel like someone needs a little lifting up, when they are going through something hard, to say I see you and love you. I seriously LOVE to do Random Acts of Kindness for a stranger whose reaction I might never know. I feel like Heavenly Father has placed us on earth to be his hands and that the actions we take are often the answer to someone’s prayer.
When I was making New Year’s Resolutions (yes I still make those!) one of the things I wanted to focus on this year is looking for more opportunities to help other people and MOST importantly being quick to help someone. There are so many times in my life I see a need and for whatever reason (I’m tired, my house is a mess, I don’t have something to give etc etc) I rationalize and rationalize until I don’t do a darn thing to help.
I wanted to share with you some strategies I came up with so that when I see a need, I am able to step up and help right away. I hope these can help you too…I would love this world to be filled with people ready and able to help each other. We ALL need to be lifted sometimes!
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Set Aside Giving Money
The type of giving I’m talking about does not necessarily require money. Many times what people really need is a listening ear or hug which (awesomely!) cost nothing. However, having a bit of extra money earmarked to help others is amazingly empowering. Look through your budget and decide on an amount you can set aside for giving each month. Even if it is just $5, how fun would it be to know you had cash each month that would allow you to drop by some flowers and a card to someone, or save up for a few months and get a gift card? If you could set aside something like $20 a month, you could save up for a few months and give someone who was struggling a lovely Christmas or money to pay off some medical debt.
Whether you are putting your extra change into a jar or diverting money to a giving bank account or even using a micro-investing app like Acorns (we use this!) choosing to use some of your cash to help others is probably one of the most rewarding ways you can spend.
Use your phone to set reminders
Technology can be an amazing tool for helping others. One trick that is helping me to help others is putting reminders (events) in my phone. Someone having surgery? I put a reminder to call/text/drop by/bring dinner on my phone! Someone’s parent is sick? I put a reminder in my calendar a week from now to call and find out how things are going. Someone mention a difficult event and how they are struggling on a particular date? Send a text right now, but also put a reminder in my phone for THE NEXT YEAR to send a card/drop flowers by. If you don’t have a smartphone, a paper planner or calendar could work the same way!
Have Cards Ready
A card is one of the simplest ways to let someone know you care about them. The next time you are at a store, grab a few blank note cards and some stamps so that you can easily drop a note by someone’s house or send it off in the mail. I absolutely LOVE getting a sweet note in the mail, it makes my week! You can do the same for another person and having the cards ready will make it second nature to act immediately when you see a need.
Buy Disposable Pans to make meals
Bringing a neighbor a meal is a tradition that has been happening as long as there have been neighbors. There is something so basic but beautiful about carrying a hot meal to a family. Buying disposable aluminum pans and having them on hand makes it immensely easier to put together a meal. Another idea, if you have the freezer room, is to double up on freezable dinner recipes when you make them. Your family eats one that night and you put one in the freezer to use for later. Then if someone needs a meal you are ready to go!
Listen/Take Notes/Social Media
Another thing I’ve been doing this year is trying to pay better attention to my friends’ social media. When I’m scrolling through Facebook or watching an Instagram story I try to watch for opportunities to give. I also take notes about things that people like. If someone posts how they can’t live without their Diet Dr. Pepper, I go to the “notes” section of my phone contacts and write it down under their name. Then if I get to thinking about someone, I can check and see if I already know something they would like to have dropped off.
Carve out time for helping others
We hear a lot about the importance of setting aside specific time for things you want to make a priority in your life. The same can be said for helping other people. It would be so simple to choose a “helping day” or even schedule an hour a week titled “help someone.” Maybe on that day you can just try to look for someone who needs a little help. Is a neighbor’s yard full of weeds? Use your hour to do a drop-by secret weeding. Or you can look through social media (per above) and take notes.
Create Giving Traditions
In a book by Shannon Hale called, “The Actor and the Housewife,” the main female character has a wonderful giving tradition. Every Sunday, she bakes two pies: one for her family to eat and one to give away. Is there something you do well that you could share with someone else in a giving tradition? Maybe you make amazing cinnamon rolls and can drop them by a neighbor on a Saturday morning. If you are amazing at potting flowers you could make it a spring tradition to take a pot to your friend’s house to brighten their doorstep. I love the idea of working on a service project during Thanksgiving. Having a giving tradition, whether it is weekly, seasonal or one time a year is a great way to give to others and have fun!
Involve your children
This can definitely go along with a lot of the strategies I’ve already mentioned…but involving your kids in helping others is SO MUCH FUN and gives you a certain level of accountability. If you tell your kids every Sunday you are going to take a treat to a neighbor you can count on the fact that they will remind you every Sunday. 😉
Pray for Opportunities
If you are a praying person (or even if you aren’t!) I have had experiences in my life that have shown me God will absolutely help us if we ask him. Make it a part of your prayers to ask Heavenly Father to put you in the path of someone to help AND give you the ability to help them in exactly the way they need it. He knows us individually, and he can help you know just how to help someone if you are seeking that knowledge.
I hope some of these strategies will help you if you have the desire to help other people. May God bless you in your efforts to make this world a better and happier place!