#1 - Pay it forward, literally. This is a simple concept that is easy - and fun - to put into practice. Most of us have seen the movie "Pay It Forward", where a young child (Haley Joel Osment) decides to "pay it forward" as part of a class assignment. He basically does something kind for another person, and all that he asks in return is that they do the same for three more people. An amazing concept, no? This is a little twist on that idea. In my case, "pay" literally means money. If you are in the drive-through lane at Starbucks or Culver's, for example, pay for the person behind you. Or, in a restaurant, pay for another table. There are a number of ways to make this one happen. Be creative, and enjoy the fun!
#2 - My second idea involves helping out frazzled parents. Believe me, I am an expert in this area! I cannot think of a more amazing offer of generosity at this point in my life than to have someone offer to take care of my children so my husband and I can enjoy a little time out on the town A-L-O-N-E. I know that many of you can relate. Sometimes, I dream about just going to the grocery store alone. But that's a subject for another day! Just last month, a friend of mine from my weekly Bible study offered to do just this for me. It was all I could do to contain myself from tackling her with hugs! What a huge blessing, and all it takes is a few hours of your time.
#3 - Make a meal for someone in need. It could be a neighbor, coworker, or friend who has just had a baby. Maybe you know someone who has just lost a loved one and is too busy planning a funeral and the like to make a meal. Or, it could be for someone who is moving, has lost their job, is studying for finals, or is just generally overwhelmed by life. This does not have to be expensive or complicated. One of the easiest meals I can think of is a pan of lasagna using no-boil noodles. Soups are also very easy and can be as inexpensive or fancy as you'd like. Casseroles are another simple idea. You do need to find out if there are any food allergies in the family that you are making the food for. A nice touch - if you have time - is to add a card with the recipe of the item you've provided. I've found many times that people are very interested in being able to make the dish again for their family when time permits.
#4 - This one is for all of you cold-weather dwellers! Shovel or snowblow/plow for a neighbor. I was blessed to be on the receiving end of this one when we lived in a subdivision neighborhood before we moved to Madison. It was a year with an inordinate amount of snow. I think Green Bay received over 100 inches that winter. It seemed as if we were shoveling every day, sometimes twice each day. Both my husband and I had injured our backs earlier in the week trying to shovel very wet snow, and we just could not get the driveway cleared, as every time the plow would go by, we would be blocked by about 2-3 feet of hard, heavy snow. That morning, around 5am, I heard what I thought was the plow go by in the street yet again. Later that morning, around 8am, I glanced out my front window and noticed that my entire driveway and sidewalk had been PLOWED out. I was in tears, as I had been perusing the phone book and internet earlier the day before to try to find someone to hire to do this for us.
#5 - Let someone ahead of you in line. If you're really not in a hurry to get somewhere, this is a pretty simple act. You would not believe how appreciative people are, especially if you've got a large cart-full of items, and they just have a few.
#6 - Thank someone. This sounds so simplistic, but it just happened to me the other day, and it is still affecting me! Go out of your way to thank someone for something that normally would not require a "thank you". For example, I received an email the other day from a new friend who just wrote to thank me for sharing from my heart at a small group meeting we had. You would not believe the smile I had for the rest of the day! It likely took her less than 5 minutes to type, and had lasting effects way beyond those five minutes!
#7 - Smile. I am often running errands with my children. This can cause a bit of distress from time to time. :) I know there has been more than one occasion where I more than likely appeared to be a very surly, crabby mother. It's always reassuring and gets me refocused when a stranger sees what I'm going through, and smiles kindly.
#8 - Anonymously mail a grocery store gift card to someone you know is struggling financially. Food is a basic need. Most of us have never been in a place where we have actually had to go without food. It's very distressing to not know where your next meal may come from. Even someone who isn't struggling to this degree would still very much appreciate the temporary relief that a gesture like this would provide.
#9 - Give a married couple with children a restaurant gift card for a night out. The holidays provide an occassion to do this possibly FREE! There are many companies that sell their gift cards around the holidays with extra incentives. For example, last year, I was able to purchase a $50 gift card to my favorite mongolian grill and received a $20 gift card for FREE! In this example, keep the $50 gift card for yourself, since you would use it anyway, and give the $20 card away to a couple who needs a night out! Even better, offer to babysit in order to save them the time and cost of finding someone to watch the kids!
#10 - Share a treat with a neighbor. Do you like to bake? Sometime when you have the extra time, make an extra batch of cookies, brownies, whatever, to share with a neighbor or friend. Maybe you know of a single mom who is always running and is short on time and resources who would really appreciate a nice treat for her kids - and herself! Or, bring that extra batch of deliciousness to work with you to share with your co-workers.
Please don't think that I expect anyone to put each one of these into practice every single day. Although I would love to try that experiment some day, what I feel is really important is that we are retraining ourselves to think about how we can love others on a daily basis. It doesn't take some major significant task on a daily basis to love others where you live. These are just ideas to start out with. Where you take them is totally up to you!
Thank you so much for taking this journey with me! I'm excited to learn where it takes us, and to hear the stories and testimonies from you as you live out the concept of loving where you live. Now, let's get out there and Love Where You Live!