Giving can be impersonal. You write a check. You drop items off. You put some cash into the collection. And you walk away. This year, challenge yourself to go a step beyond what you’re used to doing. Challenge yourself to get uncomfortable by getting personal.
Investing in face time not only helps boost your mental health, but it puts you in someone else’s shoes and life experience. Though volunteering efforts are on the rise in some age groups, go beyond your average volunteer opportunity. Organizations seek out volunteers. What opportunities to do good are you actually seeking?
1. Go Local
You can find volunteer opportunities online, but not all needs are listed online. The easiest way to find great needs are to talk to people–yes, real people. Reach out to local organizations and ask about theirs needs. Seek out your school’s counselor, your local librarian, faith-based organizations or any organization that works with children, families, the elderly or disadvantaged people within your community.
2. Go Next Door
Have you taken the time to get to know you neighbors? Do you keep the conversation light, short, and safe? Challenge yourself to push the neighborly chatter to the next level. Ask your neighbors what’s on their hearts this year as they look towards 2012. You may find a great need, such as the simple need for a friend or listening ear, just steps away from your front door.
3. Go Outside Your Comfort Zone
Who do you learn from the most and what pushes you to grow? To say it diplomatically, challenge yourself to get to know and serve people who aren’t like you.
Whether in age, race, education-level, creed, income or even fashion-sense, spend quality time with people whose life experiences don’t mirror your own. Research already shows an increase in disparities among young Americans. If we don’t work to better understand those of different backgrounds and environments, how can we create a better world?
In doing so, we gain additional insight and a better understanding into people’s circumstances and life experiences that can help us reflect on our own. When we do this, the question often becomes: Who really served who?
Challenge Your Commitment
If you are already volunteering or donating to people and organizations already in need, thank you. In today’s economy, it takes true commitment to service to provide your time and resources. I don’t want to belittle that–that alone deserves recognition. But what if we went a step further? What insights could we gain on how to really transform our communities and our homes come 2012? What new traditions could we inspire over the holidays? Let’s get uncomfortable. Let’s get some FaceTime. Are you in?