I said this on my Facebook page a few years ago, and it seems worth saying again: If you can’t think of anything else to do right now, be kind.
Find one or two or five organizations that feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, minister to sick, protect the vulnerable, teach the ignorant. Give those organizations small donations. When they have more money, they can do more work. Your $5 makes a difference, when it’s combined with other $5 donations. And if they have lots of small dollar donors, it makes it easier for them to get large donations from people who can afford it.
Find one or two or five YouCare or GoFundMe requests, and give someone a few dollars towards their medical expenses or shelter or other needs. Even if your dollars won’t pay their medical bills, you are letting them know that they’re not alone, that someone in the universe cares for them.
Get books that build kindness and empathy into the hands of young children. Give the books to children you know. Give them to shelters for abused women and their children, and give them to the libraries at your local schools and preschools and daycares. Giving books is like planting trees; you won’t get the fruit from them today, but do it anyway, and there will be fruit in the future.
If you live somewhere that you regularly see people begging, tuck a few dollars in your pocket or behind the sunvisor in your car, wherever it would be handy. Give. And when you give, make eye contact, and say something kind. In many places, a night in a homeless shelter costs a few dollars. Lunch costs a few dollars.
When you have no money
A few dollars is a kindness. But maybe you don’t have a few dollars to give. You can still be kind.
Volunteer at a local school. Maybe you can be an extra pair of hands in the classroom. Maybe you can be a tutor. Or maybe you can be the Friday story-time lady for a first-grade class. I’ve done that before; it’s incredibly rewarding. Work it out with a teacher; then just show up at the appointed time every week with a fabulous book and read it to the kids. Focus on books that build kindness and empathy. If you need links to book lists, I’ll share them.
I hate to say this to my friends, but I’ll say it anyway. Guard your tongue. Use the rule I taught my kids when they were little: Judge everything you want to say by three rules. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? If it’s not two out of three, don’t say it.
Reach out to someone you know who is frightened or worried. Maybe they’re worried about their spouse’s health. Maybe they’re worried about the results of the election. Maybe they’re worried about their job. Whatever it is, ask how they’re doing. Ask what you can do for them. Listen without defending yourself and without minimizing their fears. Just listen. Sit with them. Share their pain and their fear.
When names matter more than money: Sometimes, the greatest kindness you can do for a person is to call them by their name.
How to love strangers: Lessons in philoxenia: We’re called to be perfect, and being perfect is somehow tied to loving people who don’t love us, and who aren’t our friends. That seems an awfully difficult thing to do.
A table where strangers are welcome: It all started on the day that I found a leg in Mrs. Monagan’s closet. A human leg. Her husband’s leg.
Buy the Books!
FINALIST IN THE 2015 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS
Catherine doesn’t like vegetables. She doesn’t like naps, and she doesn’t like it when her mom combs her hair. She loves hot dogs, chocolate cake, and her best friend, Elizabeth. Most of all, she loves Pascha! Pascha, the Orthodox Christian Easter, is celebrated in the middle of the night, with processions and candles and bells and singing. And Catherine insists that she’s not a bit sleepy.
The Saint Nicholas Day Snow
Shoes or stockings? Horse or sleigh? Does St. Nicholas visit on December 6 or on Christmas Eve? Will a little girl’s prayer be answered? When Elizabeth has to stay at Catherine’s house, she’s worried about her grandmother, and worried that St. Nicholas won’t find her. The grownups, though, are worried about snow.