When I was ten years old I started doing volunteer work at a local hospital. Back then it was limited to carting books around to patients' rooms, offering a big smile and hopefully something they would enjoy reading. Volunteering
and mentoring has been part of my life continuously since then, sometimes taking as much time as my income-earning work.
Over the years my service work has broadened and now I really experience the whole world as "my community", and know that making a difference in my neighborhood or doing it in a place thousands of miles away is actually making at least some difference everywhere for all of us. Image courtesy of KiddaiKiddeeStudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
About fifteen years ago I founded a special nonprofit organization that was inspired by my work with many struggling nonprofit organizations. Now I join with a handful of others in leading this umbrella group that facilitates many grass roots projects. A project can be a single individual or a group of dozens but each one is dedicated to making a difference in their community.
We've helped a woman in the USA who retired and had a little savings to start a school in Africa that's now serving over a hundred children and beginning to provide clean drinking water to a village that has struggled with water-borne illnesses for decades. All that with her starter investment of less than $10,000! And then there is the $200 invested to buy a sewing machine for two women in Uzbekistan, one blind and the other unable to use her hands, both with young children to feed. The two teamed up using one's good eyes and the other's good hands to produce beautiful clothing. The sales earned enough to keep their children healthy and pay for some schooling. I love what so little can do when it's put into the right hands!
Close to home I find bigger opportunities to contribute but really value many of the smaller ones just as much. Picking up trash as I walk in the parks or along our beaches (I live on Kauai), doing some food shopping for those who are frail and can't easily drive now, things that are easy to work into my daily life that make our lives happier or better in some way.
The small acts of kindness I received when I was low always touched me deeply. I think it is easy for any of us to make a big difference even by small gestures. Just a smile can lift someone's spirits - and that's a big gift when someone is down or lonely. Image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Giving is a great way to participate in life every day!