One person CAN make a difference. These simple ideas won’t cost a great deal of money or time, but they will bring huge rewards. Try one today: Vote, venture out, visit, vitalize or volunteer. It’s easier than it seems. Take the first step, and the rest will follow.
1. Participate in local government. – VOTE
Don’t just vote in the big elections; vote in all the local ones, too. Vote for school board members, county commissioners, city councils, and any other elected officials. Take the time to find out when elections will be held. Offer your services as a guide or polling worker. Visit the websites of candidates. Find out where they stand, and what they stand for. Then, make time to go to the polls and cast an informed ballot. Believe it or not, it will make a difference.
FIRST STEP: Visit http://www.vote411.org/home.php to register, find polling locations, and view ballots for all US states.
2. Support local events. – VENTURE OUT
Find out what’s going on in your community, and go. Attend community theater productions. Listen to concerts in the park. Visit the library or museums regularly. Read their bulletin boards. Look for local events like book clubs, craft shows, family activities, and seasonal reading programs. Make time to attend one. Bring children or friends. Shop at the local farmer’s market, or indoor vendor’s mall. Along the way, say hello and stop to talk to the people you meet. Spending time and attention is just as important as spending money.
FIRST STEP: Take time to read the community bulletin board on the next trip to the local grocery store, library, or market. Visit http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets/ to find a farmer’s market near any US city.
3. Be a good neighbor. – VISIT
Get to know the people who live nearby. Start a pleasant conversation. Encourage others to do the same. One small start can have a ripple effect, widening throughout the whole community. Offer to help the elderly members of the neighborhood. Bring in their daily newspaper, shovel walks, or help clean up the yard. Let them know that someone is keeping an eye on them. Consider planning a barbecue or cookout, or a children’s play date. Organize a neighborhood watch or group yard sale.
FIRST STEP: Visit or chat with a neighbor today. Ask how they are doing, and really listen to the answer. Find out more about strengthening neighborhoods at: http://www.neighborhoodlink.com/article/Crime/Neighborhood_Watch_How_To_Start
4. Improve the landscape. -VITALIZE
Plant a small patch of wildflowers in any portion of the yard. Wildflowers are easy to grow and take very little maintenance. They reduce the amount of fossil fuel used for lawn mowing. They look pretty and provide a great conversation piece. Share plants, flowers, and gardening tips with others. If there is no yard or garden area, focus on keeping the location clean. Sweep, pick up litter, and wash off graffiti or grime. Take pride in the local area by helping to make it look nice. Help others who may be struggling by offering fix-up services. Repair sagging fences, mailboxes, and other publicly visible items.
FIRST STEP: Pick up one piece of litter. That’s all. Just one. This is so easy to do, yet so few people do it. If everyone did this every day, imagine the difference this would make. Visit http://www.kab.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Focus_litter_prevention#STOP for actual statistics about littering behavior.
5. Fill a need in the community. –VOLUNTEER
Every community has unmet needs. Discover them. Read to children at the local library. Sign up for meals on wheels, hospital service, or mentoring opportunities. The best way to begin is to take stock of what is already easy. Crocheting a hobby? Make blankets, mittens, or scarves to donate. Good at giving advice? Become a Big Brother or Sister. Enjoy pets? Animal shelters always need helpers. Love to read? Libraries need help with annual book sales. Enjoy the outdoors? Do something with the local parks.
FIRST STEP: Take a few minutes to think about personal strengths or assets. Then, see how those can be put to service locally. Search for opportunities on the web or in the local newspaper. Take stock and find matching opportunities at http://www.volunteermatch.org/
Every day is another opportunity. Every community began somewhere. Start today. Start now. Vote. Venture out. Visit. Vitalize. Volunteer. The results could be surprising.
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