Maybe it’s because of my Catholic schooling, or maybe it’s my Baptist upbringing/inherent guilt, or maybe it’s all of those after-school specials, but I believe (or perhaps was indoctrinated to believe) that one of our duties as humans is to help others. Perhaps you feel this way too, but, as you know, sometimes doing community service takes time and energy—two commodities that people don’t always have. So I present to you a list of ways to help others that can be easy, quick, and done with very little effort.
Disclaimer: Please note that any opinions in this post are my own, and I may donate or use some of the charities that I mention, but I’m not officially connected to them and they don’t pay me to say anything. Heck, I would doubt that they even know that I’m alive.
1. Grow out, and donate, your hair. This is one of the easiest ones. All you have to do is let your hair grow, cut it when it gets to be long, and mail the hair to your chosen charity. Really. That’s it. In my opinion, some good hair charities include: Pantene Beautiful Lengths (a program that is partnered with the American Cancer Society) and Wigs for Kids. The only work I would suggest you do is research your charities before you donate. If you’re going to chop off your hair, you want to make sure that it counts and that your hair doesn’t get thrown away (I’ve read that that happens with some “charities”).
2. Click and donate. There are websites that have corporate sponsors who donate some small amount to charity each time you click on a website. All you have to do is click. Seems too good to be true, right? Well, yes and no. Sponsoring corporations get to advertise on the site, thereby increasing their chances of finding new customers and increasing their profits. Moreover, I’m betting that they get to write off their donations come tax season. Also, there seems to be some websites that have businesses donate less (or not at all) than other websites. Therefore, you probably need to research the website before you start clicking. Two websites that I have found to be okay, are Greatergood.com and Freekibble.com. Snopes found that Greatergood.com does donate a portion of the proceeds to charities, and the ASPCA did an article on Freekibble.com. Overall, your click will help to some degree; just don’t expect everything to go to charity, and don’t expect the sponsoring businesses not to get something out of the situation. But hey, it’s something, and something is better than nothing in my opinion.
3. Donate stuff. Not going to use that physics textbook ever again, because let’s face it, whoever would? Gotten too slim for those jeans that just sit in your closet? Make room for more stuff by giving away things that you don’t want, don’t need, or can’t wear anymore. Some charities, such as the Salvation Army and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, will oftentimes even come to your house and pick up the items for you. If you have a specific cause that you feel strongly about, call that organization and see if they do pickups. If not, then you can either drive your items to that organization (which requires a little extra effort), or call other charities and ask them if they will do pickups.
4. Donate money. This may seem like a cop-out. However, what is the use of people who want to do good if they don’t have the resources to make that good happen? Do a little bit of research on some organizations that you like, make sure that they are donating a higher percentage of your money to the cause than to their CEO’s wallets, and then set up a monthly or one-time donation.
5. Donate canned foods. I’m assuming that most of us go to the grocery store at some point in our lives. When you’re going down one of the canned food aisles, throw a few more cans in the basket than you need. On your way home, stop at your local food bank and hand them those extra cans. Boom, you’ve just helped someone.
6. Recycle. This is a suggestion that has been rammed down my throat since first grade. Recycling doesn’t have to be difficult, and you don’t have to be Captain Planet to recycle (I could never pull off green hair anyway). If you don’t already have one, call your local waste management company and ask for a recycling bin. When you get that bin, throw your plastic bottles and cardboard into it, and set it out on the curb on recycling day. Bam! As cliché as it may sound, you’ve just helped to save the planet.
7. Sign petitions for causes about which you’re passionate. I’m very into animal rights, although I’m no vegetarian. Every now and then, I go to the ASPCA website and see what petitions they have going. I give the petitions a quick once over to make sure that I agree, and, if I do, then I electronically sign the petition. If you decide to do this, make sure that you’re okay with people seeing that you’ve signed this, because pretty much everything you do on the Internet can be traced. If your goal is to be completely incognito on the web, then maybe this option is not for you.
8. Pay for someone else’s coffee or lunch. You can do this by paying for a stranger’s cup of coffee (although I think that this one would, in theory, require a credit card). You can also pay for a friend’s coffee. What? Did you think that a friend wouldn’t count? Oh ho, my dear reader! Your friends are part of your community just as much as strangers are.
9. Exercise. The next time you go on a walk or run, try using an app called Charity Miles. I had no idea about this until I started researching for this post, but apparently for every mile you walk or run, you donate a few cents to a charity of your choice. Here is an article that explains the app from a user’s perspective: “Review of Charity Miles.” So, while you’re miserable on that last leg of your run and you feel like your legs are about to implode, remember that your pain is helping a charity.
10. Be aware. Community service doesn’t have to be done through an official organization. Sometimes, you can help others by just being aware of your surroundings. You may see someone who needs help even in the smallest of ways. The trick here is to offer the person help in a non-threatening and non-condescending matter. Saying, “Hey, since you’re a senior, do you want me to help you with that” is a lot more offensive than saying, “Hi, ma’am. I was wondering if you would like some help carrying that.” Big difference. My dad is terrific at approaching people and offering aid in an unoffensive manner. For example, one time we were at a grocery store and my dad noticed a fellow about my dad’s age in an electric wheelchair. The man was trying to get a carton of juice on a high shelf, but he couldn’t quite reach it. My dad went over and asked if he would like some help, and the man happily accepted. Those two ended up talking to each other like old buddies. It turns out that the wheelchair-bound man was a Vietnam vet with veins that literally ran black under his skin due to exposure to Agent Orange during the war. Helping him reach that juice didn’t take but a few seconds of my dad’s time, and he ended up making a friend in the process.
Helping others doesn’t have to be difficult, complicated, time-consuming, or labor-intensive. Some of the options I mentioned don’t even require you to get out of bed. Below are a few websites that have additional ideas for easy community service. Isn’t it nice when being good can be easy? 🙂 What are some ways that you help others in your community?