Being generous doesn’t have to be a big, attention-grabbing production. It’s often the little things that have the biggest impact. Here are seven ways you can help out your neighbors—they don’t even need to know it was you.
1. DONATE LUNCH MONEY.
One day a week, bring a sandwich from home for lunch. Set the money you would have spent on a fancy chopped salad aside and donate it to cover the meal debt of a student in need. Children whose parents can’t afford to pay for their school meals, or who get behind on payments, often go without. Call your school district and offer to pay off a student account that is past due.
Of all the civic duties we are expected to perform—paying taxes and serving jury duty come to mind—the least painful is voting. Educate yourself on the candidates running for national, state, and local offices and cast your ballot for the ones who you believe have your neighborhood’s best interests in mind. In between elections, show up at town halls and call your elected officials. The squeaky wheel gets its streets repaved.
3. PLANT A TREE.
Put your green thumb to good use and plant a tree or two in your yard. Trees prevent soil erosion, absorb pollutant gases such as carbon dioxide, and release oxygen into the air, helping everyone breathe easier. Plus, trees help beautify your community and increase property values, which your neighbors will definitely appreciate.
4. VACCINATE YOURSELF AND YOUR KIDS.
Immunizations prevent you and your children from catching communicable diseases such as whooping cough and measles. This not only protects your family’s health, but also the health of your entire community: Unvaccinated, you could pass a debilitating disease onto those too young to be vaccinated or those with weakened immune systems. And the more people vaccinate, the better chances that a disease could be eradicated, like polio has been in the U.S.
5. PICK UP TRASH.
The next time you take your pup for a spin around the block, bring an extra plastic bag along. Pick up errant trash on the sidewalk and toss it when you get home. You’re carrying dog droppings anyway; litter in the form of a cigarette butt or a gum wrapper shouldn’t weigh you down. This prevents these items from blowing into your own yard, junking up the sidewalk, or meandering into a water supply, which could cause harm to wildlife.
6. SHOP LOCAL.
We know those neon iced coffee beverages look tempting. But consider getting your caffeine fix from a locally-owned business instead. Supporting these stores helps keep money re-circulating in your own part of town, increases the need for local jobs, and encourages the ambitions of diverse entrepreneurs.
7. HOLD THE DOOR FOR SOMEONE.
For some, holding the door for others is instinctual. But if you’re in a hurry, it can be tempting to rush through life without looking over your shoulder. Slow down and be polite. This little act of kindness is an easy way to spread smiles through your neighborhood and is easily paid forward.