As a society, we’ve kind of lost the thread about what “giving” means. Our culture is so oriented around stuff that we’ve forgotten what it means to truly give from the heart. Giving Tuesday is an antidote to all the big holiday sales, a day to give back to the community. Or, to paraphrase Gandhi, to be the Santa you wish to see in the world.
Giving feels good. It helps you appreciate how much you have, and it boosts the mood of both the giver and the recipient. It doesn’t have to be expensive — many of the ideas below are free.
If you’re concerned — as I once was — that people might find you eccentric for doing any of these, ask yourself what kind of culture we live in, where random acts of kindness are considered eccentric? Let’s bring more kindness to the world — and make that the norm.
Try any one of these, and see how it feels:
1. Put money in a parking meter that’s about to expire
2. Give a stranger a flower
3. Leave a positive note on a washroom mirror (or other random place)
4. Pay for an extra coffee and ask the barista to choose a recipient
5. Read a book at WeGiveBooks.com (they donate books to schools)
6. Give the gift of patience to someone who cuts in front of you
7. Listen — really listen — to someone you might otherwise tune out
9. Volunteer (a soup kitchen, food bank, animal shelter, resource center)
10. Send an email to someone you haven’t been in touch with for ages
11. Give an overdue apology
12. Pick up litter in the park
13. If you know someone who is struggling, leave them an anonymous envelope with cash or a gift card for groceries
14. What words would reassure you most right now? Write that on a post-it and place it somewhere other people will see it
15. Leave a dollar on top of the baby food at a grocery store (or instant noodles, or anywhere, at any store)
16. Give the cashier an extra $5 and ask him to put it towards the bill of someone who needs it
18. Donate gently used items — clothing and housewares — to an independent thrift store that gives its proceeds to charity
19. Leave coins in places where kids will find them
20. Donate treats to a food bank — food banks are often short on items with protein, so quinoa, almonds and lentils go a long way. Also: treat-like items (good chocolate, applesauce, dried fruit and nuts, coffee, etc.) More ideas here
21. You know that person who always complains? Listen to him. Just listen, without argument or judgment.
22. Got a Buy One, Get One deal? Give the second one away by telling the cashier to pass it on to someone else
23. Look up a random Wish List on Amazon.com and send a stranger a book they’ve been wanting (at the link, enter a random first or last name)
24. Let someone go ahead of you
25. Pay for a stranger’s meal (anonymously)
26. If you see a group of people taking pictures of each other (in turns) offer to take their photo together
27. Buy small bags of chocolate and leave them in random places with a note offering them Random Acts of Chocolate
28. Return that text you’ve been ignoring
29. Play the vocabulary game at FreeRice.com (the amounts are small, but they add up)
30. Tell someone why they matter to you
31. Instead of getting take-out…get take-out and give it to someone living on the street
32. Listen to someone. Don’t offer advice unless asked; just listen.
33. Print out coupons, go to the store and leave each one on the shelf with its respective product (e.g., yogurt)
34. Buy socks and hand them out to homeless people (here are some other great ways to help the homeless)
35. Donate your change to whichever charity has a jar at the checkout
36. Buy unwrapped toys and take them to your local women’s shelter (especially important around Christmas)
37. Donate to a Kickstarter
38. Make a card for a friend
39. Go to a hospital gift shop and buy a stuffed toy or picture book. Ask the clerk to give it to a sick child.
40. Make a conscious decision to smile (genuinely smile) at as many people as possible (smiling actually boosts your mood)
41. Buy dog treats and give them to a random dog (after asking permission from the dog’s human, of course)
42. Give money to a veterinarian and ask her to use it towards the bill of someone who needs financial help
43. Carry (soft) granola bars to hand out to hungry or homeless people
44. Donate returnable bottles to an organization raising money (some conduct door-to-door bottle drives)
45. Put your neighbor’s garbage can away after trash collection
46. Ask a cashier (or server, barista or tech support person…) how her day is going and take time to listen to the answer
47. Clear out your clutter and post items on Freecycle. What you consider junk is someone else’s treasure.
48. Create an iTunes playlist for someone
49. Give a gift card for your local grocery store to a homeless person
50. Help fund a Kiva project
51. Write a love letter to your partner or a friend
52. Write a love letter to a random stranger
53. Let the other driver have that parking spot
54. Thank someone doing a thankless job
55. Shovel a neighbor’s sidewalk
56. Buy your coworker her favorite treat
57. Put money in a vending machine for the next person
Got more ideas for random acts? Have you been the recipient of one?
Please share below!