Do you wish you had more time, more resources, more energy, or even more knowledge to devote to volunteering? Do you wish you could help your community more but find yourself too tapped? Is it a New Year resolution that you’re still wondering how to work in? Whether you want to call it social justice, community building, or charitable giving, doing something positive for the world around you doesn’t have to be a chore. There are some easy ways you can fold small doses of positive action into your life – and it’s worth it, because a little can go a long way!
Make Social Justice A Lifestyle in the New Year
- The first rule of thumb is more an attitude than an action. Try to resist pressure to compete in activism. There will always be someone who believes more fervently, who puts in more hours, or who pushes you to take a stronger stance. Resist this. More extreme is not necessarily better – a variety of viewpoints in open discussion generally serves us better than ideological rigidity.
And pushing yourself to give more than is comfortable or sustainable is a recipe for burnout. Burnout doesn’t help you, and it leads to incessant turnover or unreliability, which also is unlikely to be of good service to the community or organization you want to help. Give at the level you know you can commit to, and feel good about it.
- Have some money but little time? Donations do not have to be a huge sum to be worthwhile. Small but loyal contributions are also very much appreciated. If you can commit to even $5 a month, and the organization knows it can count on that contribution, they can make more accurate budgeting plans, and count on better financial stability. And over a year, that’s still $60 they might not have otherwise had!
- Have time, but not much money? Naturally volunteering will come to mind. And volunteering doesn’t even necessarily need to be done in person. What is most helpful is contributing the skills you have. Great at social media? Offer to help spread the word online or lend your expertise in SEO optimization or expanding reach, and it can be done from the comfort of your own computer. Have a talent for proposals and applications? Offer to give feedback grant applications! Enjoy hosting parties? Host one as a fundraiser! Are you part of a book club? Encourage your group to read something on the topic and discuss it!
- Not even sure where to begin? Sometimes the best way to help is to just become more knowledgable and informed. Intersperse your normal media intake with books, podcasts, or social media feeds just outside your comfort zone – especially those meant to inform rather than inflame. This should help you come to more knowledgable positions about how best to solve a problem, or at the very least, why opponents might feel the way they do, and thus how to talk to them about their concerns. And it may even give you new ideas of how you can get more involved and help.
- Make self care part of your community service. Along the same lines as with the first suggestion, it’s important to make sure you take the time to take care of your own needs too – whether that means things like getting in healthy food and exercise or making sure to rest and recharge, or it means reaching out to a therapist for help with something you’re struggling with. We can only truly know what it means to be generous with others when we’ve been kind to ourselves. If you struggle with this, remember you’re a part of your community too. Building a strong community requires everyone in it to be taken care of – including you.
- Sometimes the barrier to entry is a psychological one: a feeling that you have to make a great contribution in order to make it worthwhile. The truth is you don’t need to prove anything; just be there, in your compassion and willingness to try. And fellow advocates, sometimes the best thing you can do is help someone who is trying. No one needs to be berated for getting it wrong. What we do need is a friend to hold us accountable and help us get it better.
- Something you can do this very minute? Thank a charity, nonprofit, or other community service provider for all they do. The work can be a long, hard slog – knowing it’s seen and appreciated can definitely brighten someone’s day!