SEATTLE, Washington — Below is a list of five simple ways to help fight poverty and make an impact in the world:
1. Donate Blood
There are few better ways to help people in a way that has a direct, immediate impact than donating blood. It has every advantage in its favor.
It’s fast. Including paperwork, it usually won’t take more than an hour and a half of your time.
It’s free. You don’t have to give money or anything you can’t spare. The blood you lose, you’ll regain from fluid replacement within days.
And most important of all, it doesn’t hurt. Not even a little.
Almost no one faints. Ever. You’re more likely to crash the next time you’re on the road than faint from a blood donation. Actually, it’s a bit relaxing. You’re lying down, everyone’s friendly, and you get to eat cookies and chips afterwards.
The only downside is your own apprehension. The fear beforehand is the worst part. Two things cause fainting at a blood drive: irrational fear, and standing up too quick. They’re both easy to avoid, so do yourself a favor and go get some easy karma.
2. Pick Up Some Trash
We’re all vaguely aware of the fact that we’re slowly destroying the world with garbage, right? One problem is that people throw things on the ground, then animals eat it and die. Or it gets stuck on their face for ten years because they don’t have hands. And that’s no fun.
Go pick some up garbage then. It will take as much time as you feel like putting into it. Communities organize highway and park clean ups all the time. And unless you’re cleaning up something heavy, it will be the easiest thing you do all day. It will also be the most rewarding, unless you’re doing something else on this list.
The best part is that environmentalism is in vogue now. So if you find something on the ground, pick it up. It might make you popular.
3. Hold a Food Drive
Join a food drive or organize one yourself. All you need is a few boxes, permission from your local store, and a shelter that will take the food. It can be as near as the local food drive or as far as Angola. Stand outside the door of your nearest grocery store for a few hours, or take hour shifts, and ask people coming in to get an extra can of food to donate.
Ask for non-perishable food items, and if you see a food drive, donate to it. It’s easy and makes you feel good. There are few better and more direct acts of charity than helping someone else have a decent meal.
4. Donate Money Abroad
Material donations are important, and donating your time, or even your own blood, may feel immensely rewarding, but donating money to a charity can go a long way too. Spend some time researching places that need help, and find a charity you like. Unlike food or material possessions, it is much easier to donate money abroad because it is easy to transport.
Donating by credit card doesn’t require much physical transport, so it is just as simple to donate to the next town over as it is to donate to Syrian relief agencies nearly 6,000 miles away. And in many of the more troubled areas of the world, lower costs of living ensure that your dollar goes a lot farther. So use whatever you can spare to feed ten people instead of one.
5. Be a Political Advocate
In modern American society, politics is often a dirty word. Many Americans see public officials as corrupt, short-sighted, and ineffective. Not only that, but most citizens believe that their own actions have no impact on actual policy. The truth, however, is far more nuanced.
Part of the reason is that so few people ever call their elected officials to state their opinions, even though it takes very few phone calls to rouse a politician’s attention.
Whether we’re speaking of local leaders, House Representatives or even Senators, taking the minimal effort to reach out and advocate for, say, poverty reduction, or housing the homeless, can help sway their opinions. This is true even for politicians you know take another side on an issue. Political capital is currency, and politicians only have so much of it.
Officials will use their political capital on something their constituents strongly believe rather than on a cause they remain silent on. So if you think there should be less poverty, hunger and needless suffering in the world, call an official and say so. Call their office now while it’s on your mind–it will only take a minute. Or just write an old-fashioned letter and snail mail it over to Washington.
These are some easy, free ways to use a little bit of your time to help fight poverty and make a monumental impact on the world around you. None of these activities take a lot of your time or effort, and some of them could actually be fun. Try to do at least one thing on this list, and then relax. You earned it!
– Julian Mostachetti
Sources: American Red Cross, The Huffington Post