I wish I could become a billionaire and go around the world, obliterating poverty and injustice and disease (and maybe I'll do that someday).
I wish I could travel the world and hand-deliver food, clothing, and medical supplies to people who are in need (and maybe I'll do that someday).
I wish I could go to Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Liberia, and Angola to do research and come up with a plan to decrease the infant mortality rate (and maybe I'll do that someday).
But since I can't do that today (or tomorrow - after all, I have a baby to nurse and a 2-year-old to protect and nurture and teach...), I'll start with something small. I'll begin with the basics. I'll give my twopence for the greater good. I'll take what little I have and I'll multiply it by one hundred and one.
What's on my "agenda" this week? Changing the world.
Here are 20 little ideas that anyone can do in their little corner of the world to beautify and better someone else's life. All of these are ideas you can do with young ones around.
I think I'm going to implement several of these ideas immediately (if they aren't already a part of our routine):
1. Smile. It's amazing what an upside-down frown can do to drown out gloom and despair.
2. Ask how someone is and mean it. Don't just say, "How are you?" out of habit. Say it intently and fully - and stay for an answer.
3. Notice young mothers. Pregnant moms and moms with young children typically live in this crazy kind of wonderful chaos that is completely and utterly exhausting. When you see a mom with young kids, do anything you can to help. Open a door. Offer a seat. Distract her fussy toddler in the check-out line. Carry $5 gift cards to a local coffee shop around in your wallet and hand her one and say, "It looks like you're a great mom. I wanted to give you this so you can have a break sometime."
4. Write a letter to an elderly family member or neighbor. Older people are often isolated due to physical ailments. Sending a letter, a postcard, or a photo is sure to energize and encourage the loneliest of hearts.
5. Acknowledge kids. Talk TO kids ("Hi Evan! Did you have fun at swimming lessons?") instead of ABOUT kids ("What is his name again? Did he like swim lessons?"). Get at their eye level and listen to what they have to say.
6. Sponsor a child. Get involved with a non-profit organization like Compassion International or World Vision to sponsor a child in a needy country. Send letters to him/her. Study his/her country with your kids. Make it a family project.
7. Volunteer-from-home. There's a lot of talk about working-from-home, but - if you have the means - why not volunteer from home? Offer to design a website or write an article for a non-profit. Stuff envelopes for the food bank. Plan an event for the local birth center. Coordinate a clothes swap and give the remaining apparel to charity. Think of what talents you have and then put them to good use in the community.
8. Write a thank you note. Think of someone who has brightened your life. Your 3rd grade teacher. Your high school basketball coach. Your current boss. Your always-there-for-you best friend. Send a note of appreciation.
9. Adopt a family. Call a local shelter or refugee organization - and ask if it would be possible to adopt a family. Find out the names and ages of each member of the family - and go shopping for clothes, shoes, and groceries.
10. Make a mama a meal. As I mentioned in #4, moms are weary and always needy of more time. Make a mama a meal and she'll remember it forever. Just call up or send a text that says, "I'm bringing your family dinner tonight (or tomorrow)." Then, show up with lasagna or enchiladas and warm bread and a bottle of wine.
11. Hand deliver cupcakes. Make baked goods (cupcakes or cheesecake or chocolate-covered peanuts), package them up prettily, and deliver them to a friend or neighbor...just because.
12. Make chicken soup. If a friend has a cold or a sinus infection or the flu, make some hot chicken soup, put it in a thermos, and deliver it - along with a few packets of tea, some throat lozenges, and an ice pack.
13. Give a genuine compliment. I often THINK compliments, "Her hair is so pretty!" "He is such a talented musician." "She is so intelligent." "He's such an involved father." But I want to strive to be better about SAYING those compliments out loud.
14. Send somebody $20 in the mail. Just because. Maybe it's that single mom who works two jobs or that pastor who is always giving to everybody else or that family with six kids who lives so frugally. Just stick a bill in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and send it.
15. Leave flowers or cookies on somebody's desk. Your husband's desk. A co-worker's desk. A teacher's desk. Pick someone, bake up something unbelievable, and then give it away.
16. Visit a nursing home with your kids. Bring animal crackers or musical instruments or just yourselves.
17. Model compassion (and talk about it). Our kids are watching us. Are we self-absorbed and materialistic and wasteful? Or are we unselfish and generous and wise stewards of our time and resources? Be who you want your kids to become...and, as you do day-to-day actions, explain why ("Grandma Jane looks like she could use some company. Let's go talk to her!" or "We could be watching TV, but - instead - we're baking these cookies for our neighbors. It's wonderful to think of others, isn't it?").
YOUR TURN: What other ideas do you have? What do you and your children do to change the world together?
* Image via dazey chic etsy shop.