Friday, September 23, 2016

6 Ways to Make a Difference in the World Today (Without Spending a Dime)

Raise your hand if listening to the news makes your head and heart hurt. Hand raised over here. But here’s the thing, we are the ones who get to decide what tomorrow looks like - not anyone else.

I'm all for financially supporting worthwhile organizations and causes. But I also know that money isn't always the solution. We are. 

Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” So let’s take steps today to create the kind of world that we want to live in tomorrow.  

Here are six simple ways to make a difference without spending a dime:
  1.  Smile. Yes, seriously. Show your pearly whites. Smiling is a simple but powerful act.  Do you need proof of its effectiveness? A lieutenant colonel used it as a strategy for victory during wartime. On the morning of April 3, 2003, U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division stood outside the holiest Shia mosque in Iraq when hundreds of Iraqis turned on the troops. While the soldiers were there to liberate the city, word had inaccurately spread the troops were there to take the mosque and arrest the cleric.

    The scene quickly became tense and someone in the crowd lobbed rocks at the soldiers. The commanding officer yelled for his men to “Smile, relax.” He further ordered everyone to take a knee and point their weapons to the ground. This action not only prevented bloodshed, but it also ultimately caused one of Iraq’s leading holy men to issue a decree that the people of that area should welcome the soldiers.  W
    hat’s your reason for not smiling today?
  2. Be kind to a parent. The one thing that people get scrutinized for even more than their politics or their faith is: their parenting. Recently, we were at the park when one of my children committed the grave offense of taking another child’s stick. I asked the offending party if he had taken his sister’s stick. It was a rhetorical question because I’d seen the whole thing, but I wanted to give him the opportunity to come clean. Instead, a passerby offered an unsolicited “Yes, he did!” Let’s just say, that didn’t help the situation. At all.

    We all know what it feels like to be the parent whose kid starts crying even before the at-capacity airplane takes off or whose toddler tantrums full volume in the restaurant while waiting for the food to arrive. Offer another parent these four little words of encouragement and reassurance: “We’ve all been there.
  3.      Do something unexpected. Once when we were going to an aquarium, I ended up with a few extra coupons. After I realized that I didn’t need them, I passed them out to the people in line behind me, all of whom were immensely appreciative. (No wonder. Have you seen the price of aquarium tickets?)  A few days ago, my neighbor let me know about a sale she knew I would be interested in. These are tiny acts, but, even small ripples build a mighty current.   
  4. Be courteous.  We’ve all heard manicurists, cashiers and others in service-related industries talk about how they get treated as non-entities. Let’s act like customers, not Klingons. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind.
  5. Write a note.  It doesn’t have to be a handwritten note, although those are certainly nice to receive. Just take the time to tell someone you care about them in writing. Now is always a good time to receive a tangible reminder that you’re loved and appreciated.

    6.    Follow the rules. Recently I was sitting at an airport gate located near a Starbucks. I heard a customer tell the barista that she was still waiting for her order. The barista said that someone else had probably picked up her order and that they would remake it. “It happens all the time,” the employee said. 
    Because the coffee shop is in an airport terminal, one might assume that people simply grab the wrong coffee as they run to catch their flight  - except that Starbucks puts people’s names on the cups. No matter how big a hurry you’re in, it’s pretty hard to mistake your own name. What seems more likely is that given the crowded and transitory nature of the pickup area, people simply swipe the coffee. That’s shameful and inexcusable. Do you know what else is inexcusable? Parking in the handicapped spot or cutting in the school pick-up line “just this once.” Once is one time too many. 

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