Small acts for the greater good

Three months into the new year, and where are you with your resolutions for 2017? Maybe your list has gone to pot, maybe you are 50/50 on following through or maybe you don’t believe in yearly resolutions at all.

For me, I resolved to help others and be a better person—specifically, I wanted to volunteer more of my time this year.

Volunteerism was heavily ingrained in me growing up. I was active in my church community and volunteered at Maine Medical Center during my high school summers. (I apologize to anyone who had a subpar milkshake from Maine Med’s café during the summer of ’99. Those industrial blenders are tricky for a 14-year-old to operate.)

In college, I spent my time volunteering in local reading programs and, after graduating, spent time helping at local animal shelters. But in the past few years, my altruistic acts have lapsed. I’ve gotten busy with work and often can’t imagine having an ounce of energy to do anything but eat and sleep. But I know what a grounding force volunteerism can be in my life. I believe there is no greater reward than being of service to others.

Understanding where people come from and what they are going through creates renewed reserves of empathy and understanding. Without it, we run the risk of turning into massive narcissists who believe we are the only person with problems, and we care less and less about bettering the world and the people around us.

I know the rich benefits of giving back, yet it’s been three months and a few years since I was regularly of service to others. I feel like a garbage person for neglecting my duty to my community and yet, I’m not a bad person. (And if you’re in the same boat, neither are you.) Let me tell you why.

It’s the little things that make a person good. It’s helping a friend move, it’s shoveling an elderly neighbor’s driveway without asking. It’s being the IT department for your parents or grandparents and putting down your phone down for one minute to look up and help others.

My generation is often labeled a selfish one, but we are fiercely loyal and make sure the people around us feel loved and cared for. My generation is also much more aware of problems near and far and use social media and technology to take steps toward making real change. (Hello, 2008? Yes we can. And we did.)

Plus, in this modern age, let us not forget how much good it takes to ignore those Facebook friends who test your patience every single day, particularly those with opposing political beliefs who like to argue with no regard for grammar. And who can’t spell.

Your goodness CAN be measured outside of logged volunteer hours.

But don’t rest on your laurels either. Strive for even more. People need you outside of your inner circle, so get around to volunteering (finally), join a new group and continue to find goodness in small acts of kindness.

But you don’t have to Instagram it.

Katie Bell is a Portland-based freelance writer who has contributed to publications throughout Maine, New England and London.

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