By Linda Cohen
“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”—Albert Camus
Perhaps you have experienced some kind of difficulty in your life—lost a job, a relationship ended, or someone near and dear to you has died. These times in our lives can be very emotional, and create uncertainty about how to move forward.
After losing my father, I took on a project that has greatly shifted how I continued to remain positive. The 1,000 Mitzvahs project allowed me to be proactive and find ways each day to “do a little something” for others. I was also vocal about my feelings of loss and grief, and found that this inspired others to open up and shared their own experiences.
Here are some proactive ways to honor the loss you are experiencing by turning your focus to giving back:
1. If your loved one was a food-lover, plan and prepare meals for someone else in your community who has recently lost a loved one. This could be through a church, synagogue, school, or other community group. Use mealtrain.org as a resource. You may also participate in a Meals On Wheels project, either by preparing food or help deliver holiday meals or volunteer at a soup kitchen.
2. Participate in a walk or run in memory of your loved one. Ask your friends to join you.
3. When hosting a party, ask your guests to bring food, games, toys, or gift cards to be given to a local food bank or another non-profit whose cause your loved one supported.
4. If your loved one had a soft spot for animals, bring your well-behaved pet to a senior center to visit the residents around the holidays, volunteer at the Humane Society in your area, or—if you are able and prepared—adopt a pet.
5. If your loved one was a book lover, volunteer at a book bank that collects and donates books to needy children; organize your own book drive in their memory; or volunteer to read books to children at a shelter.
6. If you have the financial means, consider making a donation to a charity in memory of your loved one. Send a note with your donation letting the charity know whom you are remembering.
7. If you received an inheritance from your loved one, give some of the money away.
8. Start a giving project of your own. Commit to doing one or two kind acts every day in honor of your loved one. Write about it in a journal.
When we focus on the ways we can give back, something shifts. We take the emphasis off our ourselves and place it on others, and remember that we have multiple ways that we can be of service. This shifting from the focus inward can be very therapeutic and enhance our positivity, opening us up to a world of endless possibilities.
Linda Cohen is the author of 1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness, Can Heal, Inspire and Change Your Life (Seal Press/November 2011). In addition to writing, Cohen speaks around the country on the subjects of volunteerism, parenting, philanthropy, and, of course, mitzvahs! For more information please visit her website.