I actually started to compose this post last week, but it was when I was feeling really down about world events and the fate of our planet. The post had a much less positive title when I started it…something like, “10 Things to do When it all Feels Hopeless” or “10 Things to Do When the World is a Disaster.” I think I made the right decision in holding off finishing it until I was feeling a bit more grounded. Since then I’ve taken a break from the media, spent time with loved ones, got out in nature, and did some praying…and am in a much better place to finish this!
The things going on in the world politically, environmentally, and socially are devastating, and I’m in no way suggesting we should hide from reality. But in order to help be the change we want in the world, we also can’t become debilitated by hopelessness. I suggest two things to help with this. First, a little self-protection. This is especially important when we’re getting large, concentrated, and constant doses of news about all the negative events in the world. Yes, stay informed, but take a break from that news stream…maybe switch to Positive News or amazingly cute animal Instagram pages for awhile. Seriously, it makes a huge difference! And second, focus on what you can do, rather than how helpless & hopeless it feels. That’s really what this post is about.
Here are ten small actions I take when I’m feeling hopeless and want to save this big, beautiful world and all the souls in it but don’t know how to possibly begin. They may seem like really small actions, and some are…which means that I’m more likely to do them. But small or not, they effect change that ripples out into the greater world.
- Plant a tree or some flowers. Hey, plant a butterfly & bee garden! That’s what I plan to do with this little package of “Bee Bombs” I got in the spring. And so are my friends, Rob and Valonia, in England on their allotment. (You can read the amazingly witty chronicles of their allotment adventure at A Whole Plotta Love.) And if you’re not sure why we need bees, check out the Planet Bee Foundation site.
- Pick up trash. I don’t mean going out on an organized event (though that’s a great option too!). I just mean picking up a few pieces here and there every time your out and about. Every bit makes a difference, to the environment and the animals and your spirit. In fact, even a couple pieces will make you feel instantly better. Granted it can be gross and unsanitary. So I keep hand sanitizer in my purse to tide me over until I get to some soap & water.
- Skip meat at your next meal. Earth Day Network does a great job explaining how cutting back on our meat intake, even a couple meals a week, can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Not only that, but limiting my meat intake instantly makes me more conscious of the meat I am buying and the animals that gave their lives to be that meal. So if I’m not buying mass meat on a budget, I can spend a little extra to support a local farm or butcher who cares for the animals properly and slaughters as humanely as possible. (Read my post, Mix up Your Monday Lunch, to read about one of the ways I try to go meatless.)
- Compost. Even when you’re at work! I know that doesn’t sound convenient, but it’s actually no big deal. For example, if I bring veggies or fruit to work, I usually bring them in a Tupperware container. I use that some container to collect all my food scraps to bring back home and toss in my green bin.
- Give without expectation. The trick here is to not only respond to a Go-Fund-Me or donation request or a homeless person’s outstretched hand but to not be skeptical about it. To just give, without expectations or qualifications. If someone asks for help, trust they do. Be there for a fellow human without suspicion. Yes, there are people who are out to cheat us and take advantage of us, and it’s good to research organizations and legitimacy, but also sometimes it’s good to just give and trust. Putting that trust and generosity out there is like putting rainbows and fairy dust into the world. Energy is real, and energy creates more energy. We need more kinetic love energy in the world!
- Switch to a cruelty-free product. If you’re not already using cruelty-free products, this isn’t as daunting as it may seem. There are more and more great products out there…both personal care and household products. As I mentioned in my first product review, there are also great resources out there to help you start identifying those products and find out where to buy them. I was reminded recently by a friend of how great Leaping Bunny is…with certifications and shopping guides and even an app! This is also one of those small actions that’s decadent…you’re helping the world AND buying fun, new things!
- Bring a cup with you everywhere. Where I work we’re blessed with a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic Waste Diversion Technician. Not only does he send out a great monthly newsletter and go around trying to personally educate staff on minimizing waste (rather than just telling us how best to discard of it), but he also does installations like the one depicted below for our students’ education. The signs read: Coffee cups are not recyclable (anywhere). Seriously, when I think about the number of take-out cups going into our landfills and oceans I feel physically ill. And one of the quickest and easiest actions we can take is to just keep a travel mug and water bottle in our cars with us. Pass on that faddy Starbucks cup and get your own cute mug…like mine! (Thanks Mom!)
- Pick up a local paper and volunteer. As you’ll spot in the image at the very top, my favorite local paper is the Sonoma County Gazette. I grab it every month. When I first returned from England after the New Year, intent on being of service (read about The Imperfect Zen Resolution), this is where I found my first volunteer opportunity. It was just a brief mention of folks getting together who were interested in volunteering for an annual gala to raise money for homeless animals and animals in need. I showed up and got to be part of an amazing group and fantastic event. What’s great about papers like these is that there’s usually something for everyone’s interests and the time commitment can be as minimal or massive as you want and you’re helping your community, in real time. Not only that but it gets you out there meeting like-minded folks.
- Smile. It sounds so simple, but it can make a huge difference…in someone’s life and in the world. I hope that many of us have experienced the kindness of a stranger’s smile. And in that brief moment not felt alone or so isolated from our fellow humans. (These last two actions can seem hokey and overly simple to some but I really believe they are the quickest means we have to change the world, and the most powerful.)
- Pray. Because sometimes it really is all just too overwhelming and it really does feel hopeless. I look around and see problems that don’t seem to have any solutions, at least none that I can fathom. But that’s where I take hope. That’s when I literally get on my knees and pray for this world and the innocents suffering. Just because I can’t see a solution or hope doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. It’s okay, perhaps even appropriate, to put the weight of it all into larger hands. So pray…to whomever or whatever you believe in. Don’t feel alone, don’t feel like you have to solve it all. Just keep your heart open and send out love through small actions, positive thoughts, and prayer. It may not seem like enough, but just think of the cumulative power of each of us doing just those things!
I’ll end by saying that no action or person is too small to make a difference or effect change. If you’re in agreement, tell me the small actions you take to help the world. And if you don’t believe me, take it from the Dalai Lama…
Small but mighty,