“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
It's stating the obvious that after a rough 2020, 2021 isn't off to the best start. I never want to be too political here, and try to use this creative outlet to be positive and share a little joy. So, when thinking of what to write to start off the new year my mind kept focusing on the good. What can we do to spread positivity and try to counteract the hate and negativity? Little things cannot solve everything, but what if every person did one little thing to help someone else? Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing with lasting effect? I'm optimistic enough to think so.
Many people are struggling right now and cannot give back financially. But, there are still ways to support our local communities and help those who are even worse shape than we are. Or for those in the worst shape, ways that they can still give back, spread joy and feel connected and tied to a larger cause. I brainstormed some ways to show some love right in your own community without any financial obligation. Interspersed are some of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., who we remember and honor on this day. Let his words sink in, and let's all show a little love this year.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
1. Clean out your closet and donate clothes to a local organization. When I moved back in with my parents back in October, I was putting things away in the front closet and found a few winter jackets of mine from when I was in high school. Obviously, they have not been worn in more than a decade, but they are still in good shape. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has old clothes or coats hanging around. January is the coldest month on the calendar; I know there are people right here in my own community who would appreciate a warm winter coat right about now. An easy way to give back and help yourself get cleaned and organized, too.
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
2. Make cards/write letters and send to local nursing home. I know there may be at least one crafter reading this. Pull out your construction paper! Get the kids involved! My heart aches for the elderly community in long-term care facilities that can't receive visits from their loved ones during this pandemic. Even in normal times, there are many that never receive visitors at all. Why not brighten someone's day with a homemade card? No craft supplies? Pull out an old-fashioned pen and paper and jot down a quick message. Tell them who you are, what you do, what your hobbies are. Have your kids do the same and tell what they are learning in school. Bring a smile to someone's face.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
3. Volunteer at local food distributions or soup kitchens. I am in awe every time I see pictures of the cars lined up for the food distributions we have held in my town. The other day on the way to work I saw it first-hand. So many people are in need right now to simply put food on their families' table. I know in my town they are always looking for volunteers to help sort and load the food on these days. Soup kitchens may not be able to operate quite like normal due to COVID-19, but when I've volunteered before I've worked behind the scenes in the stock rooms unpacking and sorting donations. With what is likely an increase in donations during the recent holidays, soup kitchens may be able to have volunteers behind the scenes helping in these areas. A simple phone call could get you that information.
“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
4. Volunteer at the local animal shelter. Our furry friends need love, too! There are many ways to help at shelters where there is limited contact with others. Help clean out kennels. Take a shelter dog for a walk. Spend some time petting cats and getting them better acclimated to new humans. Again, a simple phone call to your local shelter will tell you what you can and cannot do and what kind of help they need. Many also appreciate donations of towels, blankets and comforters. So while you're cleaning out your clothes and coat closets, check your linen closet, too.
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
5. Donate blood / Join Be The Match / Sign up to be an organ donor. There are things we can do today that can significantly help someone else down the road. With the hospitals crowded, blood donations are still vital to keep patients alive and healthy. Years ago one of the teams I worked with introduced me to the organization Be The Match. It registers people to be possible bone marrow transplants. If I remember correctly, you spit in a tube or swab your mouth or something just as easy, and then they enter you into the system and contact you down the road if you ever show up as a potential match for someone who needs a bone marrow transplant. I was just speaking with someone the other day who's husband has been battling cancer; they were left without many options, but then this organization found a match and the husband had a successful treatment this past week. It really works! I was so proud to tell her that I was involved in the organization. If you're uneasy about donating blood or bone marrow, sign up to be an organ donor. Or check that you are. It's amazing how we can help others stay alive after our time has gone.
“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe." --Anatole France