There are now well over half a million homeless America0ns sleeping rough, or in shelters.
It’s often said that we live in a time of great prosperity; never before have so many people enjoyed such high degrees of health and wealth!
That’s all well and good. But suffering clearly prevails in society. There remains unparalleled disparity between the haves and have-nots.
Helping out those who are less fortunate should be a moral imperative! After all, you never know when you’ll need some support of your own. Paying it forward is an intrinsically positive act. Doing good in the world feels great too! Everyone’s a winner.
Are you interested in doing exactly that, and want some inspiration for how to go about it?
Keep reading to discover 10 top ways to start helping those in need.
1. Volunteer at a Charity
Volunteering is a prime example of a good deed.
Without pay, you’re asking for nothing in return of your time and energies.
Why not do some research into the charities in your local area? There are almost always organizations in operation that need a spare pair of hands. Expect an application process! Once you’ve been accepted, you can go along each week to help out however possible.
Of course, there are all sorts of places you could volunteer! From the local homeless shelter, to an Elderly Person’s Home, or the local school…It’s about finding somewhere that interests you and that needs support.
This is a great way of giving back. You’ll be doing valuable work for people who’ll genuinely appreciate your input.
2. Get Involved in Community Projects
When was the last time you got involved in the local community?
More often than not, there are projects, events, and initiatives that could use your support. Ask around, do some research, and see where you can lend a hand.
If nothing is happening in your own neighborhood, then consider stepping further afield. It’s amazing how often an affluent area exists next door to one of poverty and need. The truly helpful work happens here. For instance, some community organizations work to provide apartments for felons.
Your time and effort are arguably more valuable in these places. Local communities are a bedrock of support for some people. Involving yourself in it can be hugely rewarding and make a significant difference in the process.
3. Donate Money
Many people are cash-rich but time-poor.
If that’s you, then consider donating money to a good cause. Find something that has particular meaning to you. Any charity or organization will be hugely appreciative.
Of course, you don’t have to be wealthy to donate! Every little helps in the bid to raise money. In difficult financial times, organizations struggle to attain the funds they need to operate. The valuable work they do is put at risk as a result. Any donation from any source is going to be appreciated.
Moreover, with fewer financial resources at your disposal, the money you give is arguably more meaningful.
4. Do Random Acts of Kindness
The good you do doesn’t need to be anything extravagant.
You may lack both time and money! Heck, you may even feel in need to support yourself.
There’s always room for random acts of kindness though. You don’t have to look hard to find opportunities to help.
Offer to carry someone’s shopping home for them. Lend someone your umbrella on a rainy day. Go out of your way to reduce a colleague’s workload. Give a compliment to a stranger. Drive a friend to their destination without them asking. Take someone out for dinner.
No matter what it is, all those small deeds add up. Remember, it feels good to do good! You get a dose of goodwill coming your way; the people you help will be more inclined to reciprocate in the future too.
Here are some more top ideas for random acts of kindness.
5. Request Gift Replacements
Let’s imagine your birthday is coming up.
You expect a bunch of presents from loved ones to come your way.
Stop and think: do you really need anything? Most of us have more than enough already. We have all our material needs covered; any new additions are surplus to requirements.
Why not ask people to direct the money they would otherwise have spent on gifts, to good causes?
For example, there are multiple websites where you can donate to a cause in someone else’s name. You can purchase vital, life-saving items; pay money to help build schools, provide fresh water, and so on. Using your ‘gifts’ in this way can make a vital difference to people you’ll never even meet.
You get a certificate and card detailing exactly how you’ve helped.
6. Donate Your Unused Belongings
We live in a material world!
As we’ve just noted, most of us have more items in our house than we actually need. Our wardrobes, garages, and attics are stuffed full. Half of our possessions we rarely even use! Clothes, furniture, decorations, and so on, just sit there gathering dust.
The excess involved is somewhat scandalous when you realise how many people have so little.
Consider taking your extraneous possessions and donate them to good causes. Second-hand shops and charity stores may welcome the additions.
Be selective though. Don’t use this as an excuse to finally rid yourself of the items you no longer want in your home. For example, those awful fancy dress costumes are unlikely to be as useful as the old suit you have hanging up!
7. Buy a Meal for a Homeless Person
Homeless people are far from uncommon in the United States.
Sleeping rough is hardly the American Dream that gets talked about around the world.
It’s tempting to give money to rough sleepers. After all, that’s usually what these people actively ask for from you. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know where your money actually goes. For some, it definitely will be put towards food or a hostel bed for the night.
Others will use it to feed an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
For that reason, it’s usually recommended to offer food, or a (non-alcoholic) drink instead.
Be sure to ask first- don’t force it on them! Assuming they’ll want any hand out at all is demeaning and belittling. Asking first gives them agency and autonomy. It’s about respect and not making assumptions.
8. Stop and Talk With a Homeless Person
It’s often hard to overstate the value of talking with someone on the street.
All too often, passers-by choose to ignore them instead. It’s a case of keeping heads and eyes to the floor, pretending there isn’t an issue.
Imagine sitting at the side of the street and having thousands of people pretend you don’t exist. It would cause immense damage to your self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.
Conversely, having someone take the time to acknowledge and even talk to you would be hugely powerful. Now, this won’t always be the case. Sometimes, a conversation won’t be appropriate. But a brief acknowledgment can make the world of difference.
It’s about recognition, and humanising an individual who otherwise feels alienated and forgotten.
9. Offer a Listening Ear
Stopping and listening is sometimes the greatest gift you can offer someone.
It could be a friend, a family member, or even a total stranger. It doesn’t matter! For whatever reason, when times are tough, being listened to and understood can lift you up.
Next time someone seems to be struggling, why not stop and see if they want to talk? Most people run away from difficult conversations. It’s easier to pretend that all is well in the world. Listening to someone’s grievances can be the last thing you want to do.
Know that it can make someone’s day though. In some cases, for people who are feeling suicidal, it might even save a life.
10. Do the Chores
Let’s face it, no-one likes doing the chores!
They’re hardly inspiring! They’re boring, dirty, time-consuming, and take you away from what you’d rather be getting on with.
That’s why it means so much when you offer to do them.
It’s a good example of how people closer to home are often in need as well. You don’t always have to search far and wide. You parents might have had a bad day. Your spouse may be tired and feeling overwhelmed. Your children may have masses of schoolwork.
Take the bins out, cook the dinner, do the dishes, wash the car, mow the loan…It doesn’t matter. Whatever the situation, doing their chores can make their day that bit better.
Final Thoughts on Helping Those in Need
There you have it: some top suggestions for successfully making a difference and helping those in need.
You don’t have to look far to find people in need. Even in a prosperous country like America, millions of people struggle in their daily life, every single. Taking action to help those in need is a beautiful way of making a difference. Nicely, it feels great too!
Hopefully, this post has provided some ideas on how to get started.
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