By Wendy Appleyard
A[dropcap] friend of mine gave blood – she didn’t want to – once finished she delighted in telling everyone all the details – right down to the kind of biscuit she was served afterwards. It was like her deed was done now, she had crossed that off her list and could go back into the world with her head held high.
I believe making the world a better place is not about performing a single act or duty. It’s about what you do every day – how you talk to others, how you drive, how you cook, how you shop, what you say.
And it’s not like a set of rules that you consciously follow – it has to come naturally, from your heart and, most important, your motives should be sincere. Unlike my friend who gave blood, do these things because you want to – not to receive accolades and congratulations or to make you feel better.
Without thinking, I consciously support local farmers because I want to – they are doing it tough. I see no need to buy a lemon or grapefruit grown overseas; it’s not hard – I shop at stores that stock home-grown produce.
If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. I know, it’s an oldie – but think about the words, they are easy to live by once you get the hang of it. However, initially, people may think you are mute. Don’t open your mouth unless it is to say something nice or non judgmental. I literally bite my tongue when a nasty thought comes into my head to stop the words coming out. Finding positive or even neutral things to say is difficult but rewarding. Your conversations will be filled will long pauses and silences to start with – but what’s wrong with that? (“silence is golden”) .
Be kind when merging! Let a car in. I do this at every opportunity. When you are in a long line of traffic with cars waiting to turn in, let one (or two) cars in. Likely the drivers behind you will get cross but your act of kindness will be appreciated by the waiting drivers. I enjoy it when the waiting driver smiles or gives me a wave of acknowledgment (this doesn’t always happens but I am not doing it to receive thanks).
We all have friends or acquaintances that love to talk about themselves – after coffee with a girlfriend (not the same one that gave blood) it occurred to me that not once did she ask how I was (or what I was up to). It didn’t bother me – her need to talk about herself was obviously important to her. So now I play a game: I do nothing but ask questions, listen to the responses, fire more questions – and wait for a question to be asked of me. Sometimes the questions never come but it’s an interesting experiment and makes the “talker” feel good about themselves.
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You can volunteer. The old excuses “but I don’t have time”, “I have a job”, “I have kids”, just don’t cut it. Horror stories in the paper tell us about elderly people found dead in their homes – sometimes days after passing– simply because they didn’t have family or friends to check on them. Branches of your local Red Cross may provide services like Telecross (offering elderly people a reassuring phone call each morning.), along with a variety of other services geared towards assisting and improving the lives of the elderly. Sometimes the only human contact they have for the entire day – just a short phone call (same time each day) to check they are alright, ask how they slept and how they are feeling. Ten minutes maximum out of your day – and you don’t have to leave your house. Just commit to making the call every day. If your motives are sincere you will look forward to making the call (sometimes more than the recipient). You can visit your local Red cross website to search for volunteer opportunities in your area –
Never return an empty plate. Mum taught me this. You are given a plate of beautiful food or perhaps a casserole by a friend or neighbor. I always return the plate or dish with something on it even if it’s only a flower from my garden.
Never say not my problem. This is my sister’s response to most things – so much so I gave her a coffee mug for Christmas with it printed on (she loves that coffee mug by the way). What does not my problem mean anyway? In my opinion it’s a polite way of saying you simply don’t care about the person. Their situation may not be your problem and it may not be your job to fix it but I believe you should at least do them the courtesy of listening.
If you see someone that looks like they are in trouble ask if you can help or just help. Don’t be afraid. I was in a busy shopping centre car park recently – an elderly man had reversed out of his parking spot into the line of oncoming traffic. He was stuck, couldn’t operate the gear shift to get his car to go forward and was clearly distressed. Waiting drivers were angry – beeping their horns and some actually shouting at him. Without thinking my sister (the passenger in my car and not the “not my problem” one) jumped out, took control and moved the car for him.
I challenge you to adopt one of these ideas (but only if you want to).
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