Monday, October 25, 2010

10 Ways to Give Back to Others When You are a Minimalist

We are still traveling for a couple of more weeks so at this point, I consider us extreme minimalists since all we have is what fits into our one carry-on bag each. I like giving to others as much as possible but when you have hardly anything (including no extra stuff to give away since we are traveling so light, and no money to give since it looks like I won't have a job when we get back in a couple of weeks), it may seem impossible to be a giver. Here's ten ways I have found to "give back" even though I don't really have anything material to give:
  1. Give what has been given to you. In our travels we have acquired stuff--everything from apples each day from the ship's buffet to a nice, but too big, Coach purse from my sister in law, to two packets of Chicklets gum as change in a store in Cozumel, to gift cards for a couple of restaurants from a friend we met up with. The thing is, we had no need of these things so I was able to pass these items on to others. We would take the apples into the port cites each day and give them to kids and others who thought they were a huge treat (apples don't grow in the tropics and are therefore pretty expensive), I took the purse from the SIL which was too big to fit into my bag and gave it to a friend who absolutely loved it, gave the packets of gum to two men who were standing on a street corner, and gave the restaurant gift cards to another friend because after twelve days on the cruise, the last thing I wanted to do was see more food!
  2. Give assistance with projects. When we get to Connecticut each year, the family always has a list of projects for us to do. In fact, this afternoon, we are putting together another sister in law's new TV/surround system for her. The great thing about this is that all it requires is a bit of physical effort. We have also helped friends/family members with cleaning projects, yard projects, work projects, and moving projects.
  3. Cook for others. We certainly don't have enough money to take the entire clan out for dinner at an expensive restaurant but the hubby is an excellent cook (and I am his excellent assistant). Everyone seems to appreciate a good home cooked meal or homemade baked goods and all we had to pay for were the basic components of the meal which is much cheaper than going to a restaurant.
  4. Give of your expertise. Another sister in law is a dentist so I have made my appointment with her to get my teeth cleaned at no charge (thanks sis!). Hubby has a huge family and each person has certain areas of expertise--one person is a landscaper, one is a karate school teacher, one likes to do long distance driving, one works at an appliance store where he can get the family excellent discounts, one is a stay at home mom who will always babysit on a moment's notice--you get the idea--and I always help out with website design and my business expertise. When we share our expertise with each other at no charge, we are giving back in a way that doesn't cost us out of our own pocket but provides a great benefit to others.
  5. Give your time. Sometimes we do stuff that saves other people time. Since we are on vacation and don't have a pressing schedule, we are the designated drivers to pick up others from the airport, we have taken cars for their appointments at the shop, picked up balloons and decorations for a party, dropped off dry cleaning, picked a kid up from school, and did other errands that saved other people time and effort and which didn't cost us anything besides our time.
  6. Being personable is another way to give to others. Sometimes all someone wants is for another person to keep them company, be cheerful to be around, take an interest in them, and be kind to them. All of these things don't cost you a penny but can make a positive difference in others' lives. Note that this is especially true if you have grand kids who would love your attention or elderly friends and relatives who would similarly be happy to just have your presence.
  7. Look for opportunities to help others. If you know of a friend who is looking for a particular kind of job and you happen to see an ad for just such a job, pass it along to them. If your mother simply adores cats and you come across a funny cat picture, you can email it to her and brighten her day. Passing along useful or entertaining information is a great (free) way to help others.
  8. Create something for others. If you can turn a skein of yarn into a beautiful sweater for someone, you can give someone a gift that costs very little but is worth much more. If you can whittle a piece of wood into a beautiful ornament for someone, that too is a gift that requires very little outlay of cash but creates a beautiful keepsake for someone who will appreciate both your efforts and skill.
  9. Notice when others need help and lend a hand. This can be anything from holding open a door for someone who has their hands full to saving the life of a person who is drowning. Often people won't specifically ask for help but if you see an opportunity to help out, why not do it without being asked?
  10. Teach someone something they don't know. Whether you are volunteering to teach English to new immigrants or you bring a friend to an India Festival so they can have their first taste of curry, expanding others' horizons can go far in providing a useful way to give at little or no cost.

I have a handful of friends who are basically vagabonds. Most of them travel often and have very little in the way of money or material possessions but all of them are well loved by their friends and family because they do many of the things listed above. It doesn't take money or stuff to actually give to others when you can give of your awesome self!

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