I wrote a list “Ten ways to make a difference without really trying” a couple of years ago, which I feel compelled to share with you again especially for World Kindness Day 2017. I’m pleased to say that almost everything I wrote back then still stands, the only change being that Diabetes UK no longer collect plastic bottle tops, so I’ve updated that point.
“As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.” Paul Shane Spear
I used to believe that one person couldn’t change anything and that to make a difference I’d need to join an army of like-minded people to transform the negatives of the world in to positives. That was until the kindness of others changed things for me.
I was feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed by life. Lots of stuff had landed on my plate and I found that my plate simply wasn’t big enough to carry it all. But after having a little help, being offered a friendly ear, a cup of tea when things got too much, some help at home and good advice, I no longer felt that I was alone in the world. I began to think “I can do this”. And I did. Those people who reached out to be there for me helped me get my life back.
To pass it on, I now try to help others whenever I can, which is why I use my graphic design and marketing skills with charities, why I give my time to the Crafty Business community and it’s also why I’m often stood at the school gates long after the kids have gone in, chatting to stressed Mums.
I love to see the ripples that kindness can make as it’s passed from person to person to person making them happier. It’s a beautiful and thrilling thing. You see, you don’t need to be rich or famous to make a difference. If we all make a small effort then things will change.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of small things that can start the ripples. In no particular order:
1. Give a recommendation.
If you’ve had a great haircut, sandwich or plumbing… whatever… then tell people! Let your friends and colleagues know so everyone can benefit from their great service and the business will appreciate it too!
2. Donate unwanted goods to charity – not the tip.
We all know that we can take our pre-loved clothes and furniture to the high street charity shop when we don’t want them any more, but many people choose not to.
Litter just does my head in! It’s everywhere. So much so that we have become blind to it. So next time you go out on to your street have a look and pick up the wrappers or junk mail that have made their way outside your house. If you’re feeling that way inclined you could keep going and carry on outside your neighbours houses too. If we all looked after our own small stretch then our streets would be transformed!4. Let someone go first.
So, you’re doing your ‘big shop’ and have a full trolley at the checkout when you notice the person behind you in the queue is only getting a sandwich and packet of crisps. You, yes you, have the power to transform their boring lunch break into a more pleasurable experience. Go on, let them go first. They will appreciate it and smile and it will be amazing!5. Listen.
When you ask a troubled friend how they are, do you hear the bog-standard “fine thanks”? If so, try to encourage them to keep talking and give them a moment to be heard. Just being there and listening can give them a boost. We all need a support network, so maybe try to throw your net a little wider if you’re able. As the saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’6. Give blood.
I wrote a blog about my first experience of blood donation and I’ve donated regularly since. One hour of your time and a pint of your blood you could save someones life. How huge is that?! You just have to sit there AND you get a chocolate biscuit after. Win-win! Find a session near you here.7. Make tea.
How very British of me? When someone makes me a cup of tea I am happy. Full stop.
A cup of tea is a comfort, but an unexpected cup of tea is a liquid hug. It’s no real effort to get two cups out instead of just one so why not surprise a colleague or friend a cuppa today? If you’re feeling really flash you could give them a biscuit too, but don’t strain yourself.
8. Smile more.
Smiling is infectious! Spread some joy!
One example that I often experience is when driving along Barnsley’s skinny terraced streets. I frequently pull over to let another car pass (bonus happy point to me). The universal small wave of thanks is nice, but a smile just feels more meaningful. Like we’re actual human beings interacting.
9. Give a raffle prize.
Charities are always asking for raffle prizes. If you make something or can provide a service why not donate it? The better the prizes, the more money the charity will make, plus if you’re a business then you’ll have a nice bit of PR to boot!
10. Say thank you.
I believe that showing your appreciation is good for the soul. As the Dalai Lama says, “The seed of goodness is found in the soil of appreciation”. So, think of someone who has made a difference to you, it could be in a big or small way, and write to them, email them, pick up the phone and speak to them… or you could always write a blog post and dedicate it to them…
This revised blog post is dedicated to all of my friends and family. My wonderful support network has extended hugely in the last couple of years! Thank you for being there – I think you’re all wonderful!
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is every wasted.” Aesop