My guess is that most of us spend most of our lives thinking mostly about ourselves, which is not altogether inappropriate. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves, after all. No one else is going to do it for us. One of the great tragedies of adulthood is that no one is going to help me figure out what I am going to eat or what I’m going to wear and how I’m going to pay my bills. But since thinking about myself rarely comes as much of a challenge, and since my life is always more satisfying when I think about more than just me, here are a couple of ideas for how we can think a little less about ourselves and a little more about those around us.
1. Buy coffee for the person in line behind you. Seriously, just turn around after you order and say, “and whatever he/she is having too.” It might be a little awkward for a minute, but it will be worth it. It will make their day (and yours) a little more interesting.
2. Buy gift cards for food or beverages and keep them in your glove box of your car. Then, the next time you see someone asking for money on the side of the road, you have something (besides cash) to offer.
3. Bake something for a friend or neighbor. We do this in the month of December, but what about the rest of the year? It doesn’t have to be cookies or cake. Try a healthy recipe for Banana Nut Muffins or a loaf of homemade bread.
4. Put down your phone when you’re in line at the post office or coffee shop or the grocery store. I know. You’re busy and you have people to talk to, but try talking to your barista or cashier or post off clerk instead. Tell her thank you for bagging your groceries or giving you extra whipped cream. Ask her about her day.
5. Leave encouraging notes in places where your roommate or family member or spouse will find them. The notes don’t have to be sappy or profound. They can just say something like, “I think you’re amazing!” or “I believe in you.”
6. Give something away. Is there something that you already have that someone else needs? Or wants? Consider giving it to them. Maybe you like it or need it or want it too, but give it away anyway. Getting radical with giving rarely fails to produce positive results. Give it a try. I bet you won’t regret it.
7. Write thank-you notes. More than just the expected birthday and Christmas thank-yous, write a note to a friend thanking her for her great advice, or to your boss for supporting you in a specific way. Saying it is one thing, but writing it is more permanent, more powerful. Notes are an easy and inexpensive way to make a person’s day.
8. Be generous in your tipping. Give double what you would normally tip to your waitress or barista, not because you have to, but because you can. Or, if you’re feeling a little strapped for cash, just ask to speak with a manager and give a nice compliment.
9. Ask the question, “What do you need?” Sometimes we hesitate to ask this question because we’re afraid it is too direct. But the truth is that everyone has needs, and some of them are really easy to meet. Maybe a hug or a pat on the back could be the key to making your friends’ or daughter’s or dad’s day. You’ll never know unless you ask them!
10. Become a sponsor. Or a big brother or sister. Sponsor a child through Compassion International or another similar organization. Or, if you can’t make the financial commitment right now, consider mentoring someone younger. A niece or a nephew if you have one; or connect with a Brothers & Sisters organization in your area. The truth is that there are a thousand ways to reach out; don’t limit yourself to these! Use this list as a starting point and come up with more ideas to be kind to other people.
Allison Vesterfelt is a writer and editor-in-chief of Prodigal Magazine. She’s a talker, thinker, reader and recovering multi-tasker who is willing to do whatever it takes to follow Jesus. She believes that there is more to life than what it seems and she’s not afraid to prove it.
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: This great article by Ally, was also published on Darling Magazine. You can also read the full article there.