The world is full of people who are hurting and in need of help. Sometimes the tragedies that befall nations and people are heart-breaking and overwhelming. At other times, our own lives seem too busy to reach out to others. Major world religions, including Christianity, Islam and Judaism, teach service to others. No matter what your circumstances, you can do something to lift the burdens of others. Read on for ideas to inspire you to serve.
If you think there is nothing you can do to help, don’t forget to pray. When I hear of atrocities committed against innocent people far away from me, I sometimes feel helpless. As natural disasters strike, terrorists attack and friends lose their loved ones, prayer brings me peace. Turning my fear into faith by asking God to help ease the suffering of my fellowmen is a small but powerful way to make a difference. I have felt the prayers of others during hard times in my life — most recently as I battled a chronic health problem. I know that prayer works.
Love at home
You don’t have to look far to find people to help. Start with your own family members. What can you do to make the day easier for your spouse or child? Last week my busy teenage daughter had the opportunity to spend time with a friend. While she was gone I made her bed and vacuumed her room. My husband is quite stressed out at work. I’m trying to be more patient and helpful, relying less on him and doing more myself. Extend this kind of service to nearby family members if your situation allows. Small notes, special treats, cards in the mail and phone calls can help more than we realize.
Be a good neighbor
We all have a circle of acquaintances and friends. Even if you don’t know someone well, you can still offer a helping hand. A classmate of my son was having some health problems. His mom was giving me an update on his condition and she was clearly distressed by the situation. We were only acquaintances, but I wanted to do something to show my support. I took some fresh bread and homemade jam to their home with a card. Knowing she was a religious person, I also offered to pray for their family. Acting on a feeling to do something makes me feel like I have made a difference, however small.
I recently heard a great piece of advice for helping others. Instead of asking, “Let me know if you need anything,” say, “What can I do to help?” If you don’t get a specific response, think of something helpful to do and offer it, like bringing dinner, watching children, cleaning a home or running errands. A few years ago I was sick and pregnant and my husband was out of town. My sister and two dear friends called and said they’d be coming by to clean my house the next morning. They showed up and went to work. At first I was embarrassed, but that feeling quickly changed into gratitude. Take care in being too assertive, as some people are very private and wary of accepting help.
I am inspired and grateful for those who are always ready to aid others. A recent example happened after the Boston Marathon bombings when several people assisted those who were injured. CBS news reported some runners went to hospitals to donate blood after finishing their 26.2 miles. If your situation allows, donate your time. There are several ways to do this, including working at homeless shelters, being a CASA or mentor for a foster child, taking a shift at a food bank, cleaning up after a natural disaster or visiting sick or elderly people who need personal contact.
Recently a group of billionaires pledged to donate half of their wealth to charities. Most of us don’t have billions to give away, but we do have some discretionary income. Seek out worthy and honest charities to donate to. I always donate to my church’s humanitarian aid program, knowing that 100 percent of my donation goes to helping others. The Red Cross often solicits donations for particular areas of the world where need is greatest. Sites like charitynavigator.org research and rate charities to help people choose where to send their money.
Although the world seems to be full of turmoil and strife, it is also full of good people willing to help others. Be a part of the good in the world by seeking ways to lift other's burdens. Your own will seem lighter as you serve.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.