Art by Kent Macdonald
“New Year, new me.” If this is the mantra you used to kick off 2018, then there’s no time like the present to follow through. Make a real change this year by making a new type of resolution, one that actually has very little to do with you. Instead of committing to a rigid gym routine or vowing to budget your money better, challenge yourself to do something selfless in 2018.
Not sure how to get started? Chances are, if you just look around, you’ll find lots of need right in your own community — and the far stretches of the globe certainly hold opportunities to help out, as well. Here are a few ways you work toward a more selfless you this year.
Volunteer in Your Community
Do you go by an animal shelter every day on your way to work? Have you noticed local eateries that serve meals to those in need? Are you wondering who’s in charge of cleaning up the parks in your neighborhood — and how to get on that team? Look into local volunteer opportunities, and you’ll probably find that your very own neighborhood is in need of a lot of TLC you can provide personally.
Volunteering isn’t just good for the people, animals or parks you’re helping. Volunteers develop a deeper compassion for those around them, and often a better understanding of their community. You may find that the act of giving back impacts you more than it does the cause you select. Plus, there are other perks, like building new friendships and obtaining helpful job skills that can help build your professional resume.
Advocate for a Cause
Climate change. Human rights. Homelessness. In a rapidly changing world, one thing never changes: There’s always someone or something to stick up for. Perhaps you like to keep your views outside of the spotlight, shying away from posting anything potentially inflammatory on social media or staying home when marches unfold at your doorstep. Don’t you think 2018 is the time to change that?
It doesn’t matter what cause you choose or which side of the aisle you land on, just that you step out and stand up for your beliefs. With so much at stake in today’s current climate, it’s no time to stay silent. Find a cause you’re passionate about and look for ways to get involved in advocacy efforts this year. Maybe that means you’ll create a committee surrounding the issue, or it could just mean you hit “like” when you read an article on Facebook. Baby steps are OK, but move toward a more socially active you this year.
Go on a Service Trip
Perhaps volunteering at home doesn’t quite quench your thirst to make a real change in this world. In that case, embarking on an international adventure could be the answer. Service trips present countless benefits, both to you and to the communities you help.
It’s easy to get comfortable at home in your own little bubble. Going on a service trip abroad forces you out of that comfort zone and opens your eyes to conditions around the world that you might have never known existed otherwise. It also gives you the opportunity to build relationships with all types of people and experience different cultures.
Many nations are hurting, so the opportunities to help are ample. For example, you can take a service trip to Haiti or another country that needs help building infrastructure and creating opportunities for youth.
Help Someone in Need
Sometimes, an act of selflessness doesn’t need to be arranged or planned. Every now and then, you can perform an act of kindness on a whim. All you need to do is keep your eyes open. Perhaps there’s an older neighbor who has trouble getting groceries. Volunteer to take him or her on a trip to the store or help them unload their car. Maybe a person in your neighborhood is homeless. Pack a sandwich and deliver it on your way to work or help him find somewhere warm to stay.
You can also look to your own group of friends and family for opportunities to give back. Offer to baby-sit for a pair of new parents who could really use a night out. Step up to help an elderly relative stay busy with a lunch date. This year is all about finding needs and filling them, whether they’re in your community or in your own family.
Now that you have some ideas about ways to give back in 2018, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Choose a way you want to give back this year, and make it happen. Start volunteering at that local shelter, looking into a service trip to Haiti or keeping your eyes peeled for ways to help your neighbors. By the time 2019 rolls around, you might find that your selfless year has made you into a more compassionate version of yourself.