easy ways to do good

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Over on Facebook, I keep seeing ideas shared on easy ways to help out the homeless that you pass on the street, so as we move into the winter months, I thought it might be useful to compile the ideas I’ve seen into a blog post.

  • Meal Bags – The following incredibly simple idea comes from Thomas Willeford.  (Photo credit is his.)foodThese cans of food can be purchased for about $1/each on sale, and are examples of things that can be made into self-contained easily carried-and-opened meals that don’t necessarily need to be cooked.  Add prepackaged take-out packs of forks/spoons/napkins and a bottle of water, and store them in bags in your car to be distributed as needed.  Total cost per bag is roughly under $2.
  • Fill-A-Bag  purseYou can obviously get creative with this idea.  Add in snacks, gift cards, socks, gloves, combs…the possibilities are endless.  Or if you have other types of bags, customize one for the guys.  These items can be so easily found in the trial size section of a grocery or drug store – or, if you’re staying at a hotel and you don’t use the soaps and shampoos in your room, take them with you for these packages!
  • Suspended Coffees – Being a lover of coffee, I love this idea…although it can easily extend to meal times, not just coffee.  There is a network of cafes around the world where you can prebuy a coffee (or a cup of soup, or whatever you’d like), and ask the barista to ‘suspend’ the purchase.  When someone in need comes in and asks for a suspended coffee, they get this item.  It’s truly a random act of kindness and you can do it knowing that your money is going directly to a person in need, not to someone’s salary or overhead. (You can learn more about how this idea came to be here.)
  • Restaurant Leftovers – This is a no-brainer, especially if you pass people in need on your way into the restaurant.  Should you not finish your dinner?  Depending on what’s left over, get it put into a take-out dish and give it to someone.  Does your meal come with something you’re not going to eat, like soup?  Get it and give it away. (My friends and I have gone so far as to order an extra appetizer, or sandwich, or meal – especially easy if you’re getting fast food – and give that away.)  Note:  We were all working at a museum for minimum wage, so please don’t think that this is something for wealthy people to do.  Anyone can do it.
  • The Bloggess and Her James Garfield Miracle – Once a year, Jenny Lawson puts up a post that allows people that want to help others to network with people that can use some help.  If you don’t read The Bloggess, please do click on that link and see what it looks like when a community of people come together out of a desire to help strangers have a better holiday season.  (It’s pretty amazing.  It’s also officially over for 2015, BUT the links for the wish lists are still active, so if you’d like to go buy a holiday present for a kid, go take a look.)

Obviously, there are LOTS of ways you can help people out…from saying yes at the register when someone asks you to donate a dollar or two to a cause, to chipping in on online fundraisers.  I like these ideas because they’re personal. You are in control of the focus of the help.  And most of them are so, so, EASY to do!

…Thanks for reading this.  Now go be awesome. 🙂

10 minutes of your life

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“Do you like spirits, mommy?  Even fuzzy ones?”

Many years ago, I was at a party thrown by, and attended by, varied people from a Philadelphia BBS. (This would be internet-before-the-world-wide-web, when we connected via modems and messaging systems,   when 2400 baud was still pretty common and 9600 was incredibly fast and why are you laughing?? Get off my lawn!)

Ahem.

So.  There was this party where people were bringing in videos of things most of us had never seen.  It’s where I first saw “Bambi VS Godzilla” and “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown,” as well as several of the Warner Bros. cartoons that are too politically incorrect to be shown anymore (although you can find them easily enough on YouTube).

And then someone walked in with an animated film – Japanimation, to give you an idea of how far back this story goes –  that needed a bit of explanation.  “This isn’t in English,” he said. “I have no idea what it’s really about.  But it’s awesome and you have to watch it.”

The title of this movie?  “My Neighbor Totoro.”

It was in Japanese with no subtitles, and it was…bewildering.  And amazing.

A few years later, I saw this movie for rent and told my mom we had to get it.

“What’s it about?”

“I have NO IDEA.  But you’ll love it.”

And she did, of course.  Because it’s amazing.  Really, it’s the perfect bit of anime for me, with its soot sprites and bizarre cats and nature spirits.

Based on all of this, you’d think that I’d love anime.

I don’t.

I seriously have zero interest in the genre, outside of the work of Hayao Miyazaki.

But that’s not to say I won’t give it a chance.  I think it’s one of the personality traits I find most frustrating in other people, the inability to give something new a chance, to give it 10 minutes of your life and see if it’s worth 10 minutes more.  (This is a concept my friend Gwendolyne introduced to me, and it’s brilliant.)  I’m not always good about this practice, myself; but I know that when I am, those are 10 minutes of understanding/experience/compassion that enrich my life, and so really, I can’t recommend the idea highly enough.

…And part of me still kinda wants to snuggle a totoro.