How Do I Spread Positivity & Help People/Connect With Fellow Humans?
October 7, 2018 10:18 AM   Subscribe

There is so much pain and negativity in the world. I want to do what i can to ease some suffering and connect with fellow humans. What can i do?

The issue is that i don't have a ton of extra time and money. I have some. I would also prefer things that allow me to interact (even cyber interaction) and not just click a send money button to "worthy" causes.

I would prefer things that are not "divisive" politically. I would prefer to unify and be positive and not divide (regardless of right/left)

I have thought of support groups or things of that nature as the kind of thing that appeals to me. I'm not sure beyond that. I just want to help people, be positive, see the good in people and have a purpose beyond myself.

Thank you in advance
posted by kbbbo to Human Relations (24 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Can you volunteer at a food pantry?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:34 AM on October 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

* Random acts of kindness
* Unofficial greeter at your favorite local shop
* Train to become a Listener on 7 Cups of Tea (That's my referral link, but all I get are points. I want everybody on earth to be on 7 Cups. The place is a lifesaver. Literally.)
* Volunteer locally - library, food pantry, domestic violence shelter, orphanage
* Adopt a grandparent
* Foster rescue pets
* Pick up trash at your local park
* Call your Chamber of Commerce, School Board, and other city level government organizations to ask them for suggestions
* Check out,, and HandsOn Network for more resources
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 10:57 AM on October 7, 2018 [8 favorites]

I've been casting about for something in this vein for a while. The closest I've come so far is "taco parties", where I make a bunch of taco stuff, invite an eclectic mix of people from the various parts of my life, and have a noisy get together. The kids trash the place, there's a bit of cleanup, but it makes everything better. Reinforcing community at the micro level. Taco parties are an interpretation of this idea: Friday Night Meatballs.
posted by lizifer at 10:58 AM on October 7, 2018 [7 favorites]

I did volunteer ESL tutoring at a place that worked with immigrants and refugees. You could see if there was something similar in your area. (They mostly seem to be affiliated with religious groups, but the one that I volunteered at mostly served non-Christian immigrants, and they were very emphatic at the orientation for new volunteers that you were not there to convert anyone, and if that was your motivation then you needed to volunteer somewhere else.) It didn't require any special teaching skills: the curriculum was pretty idiot-proofed.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:58 AM on October 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

I do hospice volunteer work. It is incredibly rewarding and meaningful. Happy to expound if you are interested.
posted by janey47 at 10:59 AM on October 7, 2018

Ekchardt Tolle said the biggest gift we can give anyone is the gift of presence.
Be mindful, be present and how to be helpful and caring in each situation will come to you.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:12 AM on October 7, 2018 [10 favorites]

Give blood. It helped me immensely when I felt "useless", and it's not very time-intensive.
In addition to the many good volunteering suggestions above, in many places you can also help people (refugees or otherwise) navigate administrations and so on.

Random acts of kindness type stuff:
- send / leave anonymous cards with encouraging messages.
- smile at people. A stranger smiling at me immediately brightens my day
posted by ClarissaWAM at 11:13 AM on October 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

Look up “free hugs”. Giving free hugs to people is quite an experience. I’ve done it and the reconnection to humanity is pretty amazing. It gives hope.
posted by MountainDaisy at 11:13 AM on October 7, 2018

Invest in your local community. Vote in every election, read the local newspaper, communicate with local officials, show up at community meetings, share local organizations' social media posts, engage family, friends, and neighbors in conversations about what's going on in your community.

Local government and organizations are under-resourced and lack citizen engagement, so donating even a small amount of your time can have a big impact and will make you feel more invested in the fortunes of your neighbors and the future of your community.
posted by toastedcheese at 11:16 AM on October 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

I’m volunteering as an ESL tutor for adults. The organization I’m with isn’t affiliated in any way with religion, and they make a point of emphasizing that you don’t need to know a second language or need a teaching background to volunteer.
Volunteering here is one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.
posted by bookmammal at 11:19 AM on October 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

Be mindful, be present and how to be helpful and caring in each situation will come to you.

This. Just be aware of others in the world, smile at people, chat with a checkout person and ask them how their day is going.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 12:05 PM on October 7, 2018

* Host, organize and attend social events to foster connection in your community
* Volunteer
* Read your local paper
* Listen
* Become aware of resources in your community and keep them in mind so you can pass them along when needed (food pantries, domestic violence resources, etc)
* Are there other people/groups in your community creating the kind of change you want to see? Join forces with them.
* Go to local government meetings
* Get involved with your local library
* Volunteer for/support/publicize free community events and resources
posted by bunderful at 12:13 PM on October 7, 2018

I feel this too. I’ve recently applied to volunteer at my local women’s shelter. They have positions open for people who can facilitate support groups, so if you want to pursue that I bet you can in your area too. Other high-contact, direct-impact ideas that come to mind: tutoring kids who need help with reading or math, teaching adult literacy classes, cooking/serving at a soup kitchen.
posted by eirias at 12:13 PM on October 7, 2018

It wouldn’t hurt to scroll back a year in your text messages and call somebody you haven’t talked to for no particular reason since then
posted by Sterros at 12:40 PM on October 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

Volunteer at your local food pantry, homeless shelter, or senior center. Help people that society forgets.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:46 PM on October 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I volunteered on a suicide hotline for a while. It is definitely heavy work, but can also be incredibly rewarding when you know you’ve kept someone alive by listening. If it’s something that interests you, feel free to PM me for more about my experience.
posted by Illuminated Clocks at 12:47 PM on October 7, 2018

Check out The People's Supper. Set up a supper or attend one in your area.

Volunteer for local nonprofits. Check out a site like VolunteerMatch or a local equivalent.

When you encounter someone in your life who wants to talk, spend some time listening.

Become active in your local online forums, like NextDoor, and encourage positive, affirming conversations. Organize an event for neighbors. Post a weekly appreciation prompt. One of my neighbors created a Facebook group for people to give and receive things for free; she facilitates exchanges and collections donations, which allow her to do a "birthday" club where any caregiver can come to her for gifts and money to do a birthday for kids age 0-17. She does this as a volunteer.

Get to know the less visible people in your workplace--custodians, admin staff, people who serve but don't always get recognized.

Write cards to your friends and family just to express your appreciation and love.

Learn about your privilege and power in your community, and how to use it well. Make sure your everyday interactions are as positive as possible by learning to listen, communicate nonverbally, be a helpful bystander, and avoid things like (just as some examples) if you are a white woman, don't clutch your purse when a black man walks past or if you are a man, learn to uplift and support women and nonbinary people through everyday actions. If you're in the US and white, join a SURJ group.
posted by ramenopres at 1:26 PM on October 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

My family member is involved in a weekly "discipleship huddle" at church. Even if church isn't your thing, hear me out; the huddle is designed to keep people accountable, but for things related to their spiritual growth. This morning I was thinking it would be great to create a non-religious "huddle", more in the vein of a book club, but not really a book club. Maybe a super club. Maybe a bitch & stitch. But something along the lines of being physically in front of people, and checking in on what they mentioned at the last meeting. My idea is not fully formed, obviously, but it arose from a conversation I had with my 7yo last week about how people get desperate when they lose their communities. When you leave school, you're no longer in front of a lot of people every day. And if you're not working, you're in front of even less people per day. And if you're not involved in a community that meets regularly, like a church, maybe you can go for a long time without talking to anyone beyond your immediate family or roommates. It can get isolating really fast. Having a regular place to meet can be incredibly helpful for a lot of people.
posted by vignettist at 2:09 PM on October 7, 2018 [6 favorites]

So this is kind of silly and insignificant, but there's this group in my town that hangs up signs that say things like "you're a cool person" and "you're beautiful" and stuff like that. It's not an in-person connection, but every time I see one, it makes me feel happy. How cool that someone would go through the trouble to make and hang such a sign. Things can't be all bad.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:48 PM on October 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

Play a pickup team sport. You will meet people from all walks of life and all skill levels, and everyone's there to have fun and get better. Most amateur pickup groups are super welcoming of newcomers, and are really great places to forge genuine friendships with strangers.
posted by cirgue at 3:38 PM on October 7, 2018

There’s a lot of good concrete stuff here, but sometimes it can feel like you’re casting about randomly a bit. I found that Thich Naht Hahn’s Being Peace helped me get some clarity on what I want for the world and thus where to focus my efforts.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:43 PM on October 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding being present. Breathe and be mindful. No past. No future. Nothing to prove. Don't think about what you're going to say next, because it's always comes off as phony and egocentric.

Being with people, letting them be who they are, and staying in presence is a gift. Communicate in the moment. It seems simple but one of the best things you can do for humanity.
posted by loveandhappiness at 3:55 PM on October 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

Volunteering is where it's at. I have been volunteering weekly since about 2013 and I feel way better about the world and myself because I know I'm putting in work on important issues. I also get to spend time with people who feel the same.

Do you have a Hands On website for your town/city? This is an organization where they reserve a bunch of volunteer spots at a wide range of activities, then present a monthly calendar that makes it easy to just sign up and show up, thus circumventing the overworked and understaffed nonprofits' volunteer onboarding process.

Also, it's OK if you try some volunteer activities and they don't really do it for ya. Try something else! Literacy was a big issue I wanted to work on, and the nonprofit that provides books to low-income households is great, but washing books in a room with a bunch of silent and sullen middle-schoolers for 2 hours while their parents waited outside in their cars, engines idling, just really wasn't my scene, socially, so I found something else.
posted by MonsieurBon at 8:07 AM on October 8, 2018

-Be a big brother or big sister

-Mentor girls, specifically. (This is a national organization but their website is down)

-Here there is a homeless day center that also helps people overcome the legal hurdles to housing (like restoring identity, clearing out old warrants for unpaid fees, etc.) They really give people back their lives.

-Entertain the elderly
posted by *s at 9:52 AM on October 8, 2018

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