After the holidays are over, most of us don't even want to think about giving anymore. But what if I told you spreading the gift of kindness costs nothing at all? Being merry and jolly doesn't have to be a holiday only event—it should be in your heart year-round. Here are seven ways to help spread kindness even after the holiday season (and no, they won't cost you any money).
Smile at the next stranger you meet.
Something as simple as smiling at someone can really make their day. You never know what they experienced or went through that day, or that week, so offering a smile can help brighten their outlook. I’ve seen so many people who look miserable, but as soon as you smile at them, they light up like a star. It’s beautiful to watch. Sometimes, hardship strikes when a person least expects it and dulls their shine. All you need to do is rekindle it. Smiling at someone you don’t know will help them feel less alone, and like there truly are good people left in the world. Perhaps they need the reminder!
Your challenge: The next stranger you see that looks upset and makes eye contact with you, smile at! Super simple, but it’s amazing to watch what their response is.
Spend time with an elderly person.
Elderly people are full of wisdom, but they don’t always have someone to share it with. Maybe their relatives passed away, or simply don’t come to visit them enough. Is there an elderly person in your family you should spend more time with? How about an elderly person on your block who looks lonely? Sometimes it’s nice to check in on them, either by calling or visiting. They’ll truly appreciate how thoughtful you are and it’ll bring a smile to their faces. Visiting the elderly in nursing homes is a touching sentiment too, because a lot of people there don’t get too many visits. You can make their day simply by showing up, asking how they are, if they’ve read any good books, played any bingo, or watched anything interesting lately. Just having someone to converse with is usually enough. However, if you want to pop by your grandparents’ house, consider bringing a homemade dessert! They’ll really love that.
Your challenge: Spend some time with an elderly person, be it grandparents, a neighbor, or someone in a nursing home. Just talking to them is fine, but consider baking them something homemade to really brighten their day.
Give someone a book you’ve already read.
There’s nothing worse than wasting a good book. If you’ve enjoyed a book, chances are someone else will too. Why let it sit on your shelf gathering dust? Find a friend who has similar taste in books to you and gift them the book you just read. When they’re finished, you’ll be able to chat them up about it and swap opinions. It’s a great way to bond and learn new things you may have missed otherwise. Plus, you’ll have someone else who knows about the book to talk with it about! If no one in your circle would be interested in reading it, why not try leaving it on a park bench and watching to see who comes and takes it? If you’re afraid it will just wind up as trash, consider writing a little note and leaving it in the book, saying how much you enjoyed the book and how you want to give someone else that experience as well.
Your challenge: Find someone to give a book you’ve already read to. If no one in your circle would enjoy the books you read, consider leaving it somewhere for a stranger to find (like a park bench).
Volunteer at your local food pantry.
During the holidays, a lot of people volunteer at their local food pantry, which is a great thing. But after the holidays are up, a lot of those volunteers leave. Ironically, this is when they’re needed most. Consider volunteering for your local food pantry after the holidays are over. They will greatly need the help and be grateful to have it. Just make sure you go in with the mentality that nothing is beneath you: They may have you preparing food or cleaning. It all depends on what they need, but it’s good to go in with a can-do attitude. Also, never expect a thank you from the people you wind up helping. Just do it from the good of your own heart. To locate your local food pantry, do a quick google search of “food pantry near me” or “food pantry (your state).” You might be surprised at what you find!
Your challenge: Find a local food pantry near you and submit a volunteer application! Even after the holidays are over, there are still plenty of people in need of good food, so your help will be appreciated.
Help out a stray animal.
During the winter, stray animals have it extra hard. Many people believe that stray animals are better equipped at handling the cold than they really are. The truth is, a stray can certainly freeze or starve to death. It’s a sad reality, but one you can help change. If you notice any strays in your area, please consider leaving food out for them, giving them some water, or even building a small little shelter for them. If you’re really passionate, you can possibly even adopt them. And, of course, if you see an animal in need of further help (if they have a severe injury or are entangled in something) be sure to call in the animal. For more information, here are four ways to help strays survive the winter.
Your challenge: Set aside time to help out a local stray animal, be it leaving food and water out for them or building a shelter. Whatever you do, be sure to call in an animal that is clearly sick or in need of medical help immediately.
Visit a neighbor.
It’s such a shame that many of us don’t know our neighbors or interact with them. Having a neighbor you like and get along with can really make or break your experience in a neighborhood. Do your best to get along with your neighbor and spread kindness their way. Whether it be knocking on their door to give them a homemade treat, helping them rake or mow their lawn, or simply letting your kids play with theirs. But make sure to visit your neighbor every once and a while and catch up. It’s good to see how they’re holding up, and also good to stay up to date on any local activities or events. If you don’t have the best rapport with your neighbor, you don’t have to visit or knock on their door right away. Just start out with a simple “hello, how are you?” every time you see them outside. Maybe take a few minutes to catch up with them during that time, if you aren’t both in a rush. The whole goal is to show you care and develop a friendly relationship with them. View them as members of the community, not strangers!
Your challenge: Give your neighbor a visit by showing up on their door with a homemade treat, or offering to help them mow the lawn. If you don’t have time for that, consider greeting them the next time you see them outside your house, at the least.
Shovel snow for someone.
Shoveling snow is not an easy task. Especially if you live alone or are an elderly person. Did you know the strain of shoveling snow can actually make an old person fall and hurt themselves? If you know anyone on your street or in your circle who needs help shoveling snow, be sure to offer help this season! The last thing you want is someone getting hurt when you could’ve been there to prevent it. As soon as the first snow falls, head on over to your neighbor’s house and ask them if they need any help. Do it from the kindness of your heart and you might be surprised at how they repay you. Of course, don’t go in expecting a reward or anything. Your neighbors and loved ones will truly appreciate the offer, regardless.
Your challenge: Offer to help shovel snow for someone, be it a loved one or a neighbor on your block. Don’t expect any money for your help, just do it from the kindness of your heart. (No snow where you live? Offer to rake, sweep, or mow instead.)
Doing at least one of these activities will help spread kindness and goodwill all year long. Which will you choose?