“Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers. The question of what to do with the feelings that have been aroused, the knowledge that has been communicated. If one feels that there is nothing ‘we’ can do…, then one starts to get bored, cynical, apathetic.” Susan Sontag

We are all familiar with this feeling of impotency, this feeling that we can do nothing in face of the poverty, crimes and atrocities of the world. But is it impossible for us to translate our compassion into action? What can we do to positively influence our community and people around us?

Love can change the world. Here are 5 ways to make an impact in your community and improve the lives of others.

Open Your Eyes and Ears to Understand the Needs of Others

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and to overlook the need for help that’s all around us. When we open our eyes and focus our minds on love and empathy, we see opportunities to make an impact in someone else’s life.

Use Your Talents And Positions Of Influence

Each of us has unique talents. It may be woodworking, crafting, cooking, or working on the computer. You may not have thought of impacting someone’s life by gifting your talents. For example, let’s say you enjoy woodworking. Seek out a family that you know is struggling financially. Pour your love into a making a piece of furniture that you can sell and contribute the proceeds of the sale to the family. If you want to stay anonymous, leave a note in their mailbox with the proceeds inside. With a little creativity, you’ll find lots of ways to change people’s lives with love.

Anonymous Acts of Kindness

Brightening someone else’s day without them knowing who did it can make a big difference in their lives.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Leave a note of encouragement on a random car in a parking lot.
  2. Pay for the person behind you in a drive through.
  3. When getting gas, leave an envelope with $10 inside and a note saying “Please accept this gift, I hope it brightens your day.”
  4. When eating at a diner, tip your waitress the same amount as the bill.
  5. Put money in parking meters for someone whose time has expired.
  6. Mow  your neighbor’s yard when they’re out of town.
  7. Leave unused coupons next to items on the shelf.

Provide a Warm Meal

There are times when our friends and neighbors need help but don’t feel comfortable asking. They may be sick, stressed out, or having financial difficulties. When you sense this, give them a call asking if you can bring over a hot meal. Give them a day’s notice so that they can enjoy the day knowing that they don’t have to rush home to cook.

Volunteer in your Community

There are many organizations that are impacting people’s lives in a positive way. By volunteering, these organizations can continue providing assistance and you gain a sense of satisfaction by helping. A side benefit is that you also pick up new skills that are valuable in other areas of your life. Can’t think of places to volunteer? Here are a few ideas:

  • Local churches – Look for local churches or synagogues that need help.
  • Habitat for Humanity – Help build houses for families in need and learn valuable construction skills.
  • Food Pantries – Local food pantries organize food drives and feed hungry residents in your neighborhood. FoodPantries.org lets you search for one near you.
  • YMCA – Here you can volunteer to help both children and adults, strengthen your leadership skills, or pick up some valuable teaching experience by tutoring literacy courses.

Make It Your Lifestyle: Practice Daily Kindness

Daily kindness begins with a smile. As you encounter others, put on a smile and say hello. We never know the struggles that a specific person is going through and something as small as a smile and a warm greeting can change someone’s outlook. You’ll find that smiling is contagious. When you smile at someone, they automatically smile back and you are immediately rewarded for your efforts.

Featured photo credit: Love and hope/ John Liu via flickr.com

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