“We make a living by what we GET, but we make a life by what we GIVE!” Winston Churchill. This is one of my all time favorite quotes and one that I try to live by. It is so true that when we get the focus off of ourselves and onto others life is so much more rewarding and meaningful! My family and I recently had the privilege to travel to Kenya on a mission’s trip where we worked at an orphanage, at a primary and secondary school of over 600 kids, a high school of over 200 kids and did some work in the surrounding slums. There are not enough words to express all that we experienced or time in this post to detail all the life lessons that we came away with.
My two teenagers upon returning to the States asked me to help remind them when they are complaining. They realized that they complain about lots of little things or just get annoyed with things that don’t really matter – I think that is true for all of us. My kids have now realized that they have nothing to complain about and no matter how inconvenienced or annoyed they may get at something, nothing is to difficult compared to what challenges our new Kenyan friends experience on a daily basis. They saw more human need for just the basics (clean water, food, clothing, medical) in those 10 days than they ever knew existed. This was just one of the many very important life lessons that we all found ourselves faced with.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are lots of really, really important needs all around the planet but you don’t have to get on a plane and travel half way around the world to make a difference. There are lots of things we can all do right in our own backyards. It doesn’t matter where you live or how much money you have, you can start today and make a difference even if it just in ONE person. Smiles are free and accepted everywhere!
Here are some ideas to help get you started as you go about changing your world one smile at a time:
- Work at a local soup kitchen (we have done this with our kids on Thanksgiving and they ask to help every year – we all LOVE it! They help serve drinks, collect empty plates, talk to the families that come for dinner and have found it very rewarding!)
- Volunteer at a local animal shelter to walk the dogs or help with daily tasks
- Become a Mentor at a local school – I have done this for years and it is often the kids that have rough home lives that just need a listening ear or extra help with Math or Reading. It is once a week for 30 min and it makes a lasting impact on the life of a child.
- Bring a pot of homemade soup or a batch of muffins to a family who just needs some encouragement or just because (we have lots of great recipes here for you to use)
- Bake some cookies for the new family on the street or bring by a covered dish as they do here in the South
- Donate gently used clothing, shoes and books to a local women’s shelter
- Go and read books or play cards at the community retirement home – when I was in middle school I was a Candy Striper, uniform and all, and I helped play organized game, sang Christmas carols during the holidays and went room to room and spent time with the residents. Many of them don’t have local family and are left alone much of their later years. They love it when young people came by for a visit!
- Sponsor a child from another country to help in school or food/water – The girl we sponsor is named Faith and it is just $30 a month!
- Organize a neighborhood food drive for the local food pantry.
- Write a short letter to a family member or treasured friend to let them know how much they mean to you – yes people still appreciate a hand written note.
- Pay for the person in line behind you (at the toll plaza or the restaurant)
- Call your grandparents or send them flowers, it’s the little things that matter to them!
- Call up your friends, meet them at the park and surprise them with a picnic lunch complete with blanket and a game of Frisbee or catch.
- Smile! It’s free, always appreciated and sure to brighten someone’s day!
As you can see the list goes on and on – pick one a week and before long the blessings will begin to flow! Watch what happens when you bless others and then they in turn pass it on. We can make a difference – one person at a time!