I am riffing on a column from the September 29 issue of Time magazine by Kristin van Ogtrop. She mentions several of these, but I am adding, subtracting, and changing them around. And I added the “mensch” part.
- Do something nice for someone completely anonymously. No possible way to get acknowledgement, credit, or appreciation from the recipient or anyone else. Just for the sake of it. And not by paying for something. You have to put in some physical and/or mental effort. Concentrate on how good it feels when there is no personal reward.
- Take care of someone, even an animal, in a serious and committed way. Volunteer regularly at a nursing home long enough to develop attachments to the residents. Read stories to young patients in a cancer ward (again, regularly enough to develop attachments).
- Do an unpleasant job. We have all seen (at least on commercials) the Dirty Jobs guy. If you saw his TED talk, you will know that he admires how much respect his coworkers have for themselves and for each other and for their work. Develop some of that respect for people who have jobs you never plan to do yourself (except for now).
- Cook a meal for a family (at least 4, but 6-8 is even better) that is healthful, filling, tasty, and costs less than $2 per person. Realize how many people around the world don’t have it even this good.
- Write a heartfelt, handwritten, personal letter to someone. Preferably a thank you letter or an admiration letter for something really good they did. Use real stationary if you can find any. Use a serious writing style – no LOLs.
- For an entire year, every time you buy something give away an equivalent to someone who needs it. If you buy a new electronic device, donate one to a school. When you go grocery shopping, donate some food to a food bank. When you buy clothes, donate some old clothes to a shelter. When you fly, donate the frequent flier miles to charity.
- Unplug from everything for a week. Not just your digital toys. Go somewhere you can be totally alone with your thoughts. No connectivity and no people. Think about how many people do this without choice – dying patients who have been abandoned by their family. Prisoners in solitary. Shut-ins.