Monday, 28 May 2018

Random (Summer) Acts of Kindness

Summer can seem like the perfect time of year. The sun is shining. School is out, beach trips are in. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. The nice weather can make things like physical and mental illnesses seem so much worse. It's also a hard time for people who are alone or elderly as photo albums and social media feeds fill up with groups of people having a blast.

As someone with mental health problems, I can't say enough how important it is to remember these people during the summer months. Heat and feelings of inadequacy can be crippling. Depression can feel a hundred times darker against the "happy" feelings you know you're supposed to being having. Societal pressure to have a "perfect beach body" can make even the smallest imperfections seem unbearable. The desire to join festivals, parties, carnivals, etc. can cause someone with Anxiety to withdraw even more.

Summer ain't a walk on the beach for everyone, my friends.

We talk about things like random acts of kindness a lot around Christmas but they tend to get forgotten when summer rolls around, even though kindness is every bit as important now as when the man in the red suit is watching. Please consider taking a few minutes out of your vacations/holidays to help brighten someone else's day.

Here's a list of Summer Acts of Kindness to help you get started.

Write positive messages in chalk in your neighbourhood. This is great because playing with chalk is also just too much fun. Brighten up sidewalks/pavement in your area with inspirational message and watch your neighbours smile as they walk by.

Update your Summer Wardrobe. Donate the rest to charity. I don't know about you, but I've already bought a few new summery things. (Well, the hubs made me, to be fair, but that's his job. Lol.) If you're anything like me, your summer wardrobe is already increasing. Why not try a few things on, see what you still love, and take the rest down to your local charity shop for those not lucky enough to be able to afford the newest fashions.

Leave change in drinks machines. Boy, is it hot! Dehydration is a real problem right now. People just don't remember to keep themselves hydrated enough. It's easy to forget, with such busy lives. Help someone get hydrated by dropping a few coins into a vending machine.

Give bottles of water to the homeless. People living rough aren't only in danger during the winter months. Heat can be just as debilitating as cold. If you live in a city, why not buy some bottled water and pass it out among those who need it? Heck, pass it out to anyone, not just the homeless. Like I said, everyone needs more water this time of year!

Pick up rubbish. Not just your own (OMG, PICK UP YOUR FREAKING RUBBISH!), but any rubbish laying around. Take an extra plastic bag with you when you visit your favourite local beauty spot. If you see used up barbecues, empty cans, or whatnot laying around, just pick it up. You're doing both nature and other visitors a favour! (Dude. If you're willing to pick up dog poop, you can pick up garbage. Just do it.)

Recycle those drink cans and bottles. Our natural resources aren't infinite. Be kind to the environment and recycle your garbage as much as you can. While you're at it, why not sort the recycling so your parents/partners don't have to? Keep the kindness going!

Bring in garbage/recycling bins for your neighbours. It might only save them a few minutes but you never know how important those few minutes can be to a busy parent!

Leave cool drinks for the garbage/mail people. I'm big on staying hydrated, I know, but it's so important I'm going to keep saying it! Leave some cool drinks for construction workers, delivery people, gardeners, or whoever. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Feed the birds. There are a lot of fledglings about this time of year. Most birds have a shockingly high mortality rate. Hunters and prey are major obstacles but getting enough food is a problem, too. If you can, put out feeders to help the birds. You can also keep a baggie of birdseed in your car for when you're out and about. It's a little thing, but it helps a lot.

Put out a birdbath. Keep it full of fresh water. Look after our feathered friends! They'll need fresh water, too, and it might be scarce if the weather is hot and sunny. Plus, it's fun to watch them splashing around!

While you're at it, make sure water dishes for animals outside stores stay full. A lot of stores keep water dishes outside entrances for our canine companions but they don't always remember to check to make sure those bowls remain full. If it's empty, grab a bottle and help a dog out. If your local supermarket doesn't have this facility, ask them why the hell not!

Keep an eye out for animals/children left in hot cars. I'm not advocating smashing windows or anything, but certainly alert someone if you see this!

Add books to your local mini-library or donate them to a charity shop. A tenner doesn't seem like much to pay for a good book when you've got the money but, when times are tough... If you've finished a good book recently, why not share it with someone who might not be able to afford it otherwise? You might just find a new book to read for yourself, while you're at it. 😉

Visit elderly friends and neighbours who can't get out. It might have been a long time since they last got to enjoy a day in the sun. Take them out for a wander, if you can. If not, try to bring a bit of the sunshine to them!

Check in on friends with Depression and/or Anxiety. You don't have to show up at their door. (If they have Anxiety, you probably don't want to do that, anyway.) Just text or call. Message them on FB or send them a tweet. Get in touch. Remind them they're not alone. Find little ways to help them fight the summertime blues. Don't worry if you're not sure how you can help. Just asking what you can do to help helps. Easy as that.

Offer to do some lawn work for them. Or anyone, really. Everybody's busy, right? Everybody could use a hand! If you've got time and nothing to do, mow someone's lawn or weed their garden. A neighbour did this recently for me (weeding is hard on my hands because... arthritis) and I'm still beaming.

Compliment people you meet. (In a non-creepy way.) Don't be a creeper! "Hey, you look amazing" is good. "Hey, nice tits" is both wrong and rude. If that's your idea of a compliment, you need to go back to Being A Human School. Angry rants aside, most of the people you pass are probably freaking out about some part of their bodies right now. Media pressure has everyone thinking that they have to be flawless to get out and show some flesh. What a bunch of bull! Tell the media to eff off and tell the next person you meet how awesome they are!

Leave positive messages on public bathroom mirrors. It can be hard to compliment people face-to-face. I get that. The thought of talking to a stranger makes me break out in hives. That's why we have Post-It notes. Just saying...

Send someone on vacation. We've all got difference amounts of financial ability so don't stress if you skip right past this one. If you've got the means, though, why not send mom & dad or grandma & grandpa away for a weekend? Or, send the partner & their friends away for a week. It isn't just about places, it's about people creating memories together. It feels amazing when you can make that happen.

Offer to babysit or dogsit so your friends and neighbours can get away for awhile. So many of us are tied to home because we can't get babysitters (or dogsitters or catsitters.) Don't make those neighbours with a toddler freak out over finding a reliable babysitter so they can go to a festival. Step up and offer your services. If your married friends say they're afraid to leave their dog at a kennel while they go away, get in there. Not only does this save them a bunch of money, but it takes away a lot of anxiety, too.

Offer to wash or walk your neighbour's dog. Hey, if it gives their humans an hour or so to have some... alone time (nudge, nudge,) it's worth it, right? 😉 But, seriously, people might struggle to do this on their own. You could give someone with a bad back or bad knees a much needed break. (And have a riot at the same time. I mean... DOGS.)

Give out popsicles to people on hot days or buy a bunch of popsicles for the office. Or even ask your child's teacher if it's okay to bring in popsicles for the class. This would happen occasionally in the office I used to work and it was absolutely freaking amazing! Everyone gets a big ass smile on their face when offered a popsicle. (Seriously, try it. Smiles every time!)

Buy a fan for the office or classroom. A lot of offices (too many, really) and/or classrooms get way hotter than they should due to poor circulation or just too many bodies. Sometimes, the temperatures in those places may even be controlled offsite! A ten dollar fan might seem like nothing to some but it might make a huge difference to a teacher who already has to pay for too much out of their own pocket. (You might want to ask before doing this one, though, as you never know what kinds of regulations a building might have in place.)

Let someone in when you're stuck in traffic. The heat can make people grumpy and aggressive. Throw inevitable summer roadworks on top of that and you've got massive potential for road rage. Help battle road rage by stopping to let someone in. It isn't a contest, after all. Hey, while you're at it, don't be that dick who waits until the last minute to merge. No one needs that shit.

Hide fun painted rocks for kids to find. The kids will be on summer break soon. You can stretch your artistic legs in a fun way by painting fun rocks and hiding them in places kids are likely to be. If you've got kids, this is a great activity to keep them interested on walks. Find a rock, leave a rock. Your area might even have a Facebook page for people hunting painted rocks.

Throw a surprise barbecue for your friends and family (for no reason.) It's really about bringing people together but there are all sorts of added benefits. Someone doesn't have to worry about finding or making a meal for at least one night. It gets people out of the house. Someone might have the chance to get out an issue they've been fighting in silence. Stories get passed on to the next generation. There are so many great reasons to throw a barbecue!

Share your sunblock with others at the beach. As much as some of us love seeing the sun this time of year, we shouldn't forget that it's dangerous to spend to much time out in it! Over-exposure can lead to all kinds of medical concerns so make sure you keep yourself and your loved ones protected. While you're at it, though, take a minute to offer sunblock to the people near you at the beach. They might have forgotten theirs. You could be their knight in shining SPF-30.

Pay more than you need to at a car boot sale/yard sale. I'm always on the lookout for a great deal. I think most of us are these days. Times are tough. But if we can make someone's day by paying a few pence/cents for something we love at a boot sale/yard sale, why the heck not? If you can spare it, share it.

Support a crowdfunding project or give money to a good cause. These aren't the only options. You can also become a patron through Patreon. You can drop a few coins in a charity bucket. Do what you can, within your budget but never feel guilty if you can't. Don't ever feel like you've got to donate. You look after you first.

That goes for all of these suggestions. Put yourself and the needs of you & your family first. If you're not in a position to help anyone else, that's okay. I just have one request of you. If you need help, please ask. Ask a friend or family member if you can. Ask the internet anonymously, if you feel you can't talk to your loved ones. Talk to a doctor. Talk to your neighbours. Talk to me, if you want. Just be kind to yourself, too, okay?

I hope you found this list useful. If you use any of these ideas, let me know how it went. If you have ideas of your own, drop them below. Thanks for reading!

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