We've spent the last three weeks discussing getting your health, finances, and house in order. This week, we'll be looking at some of the other things you need to look at to keep your life in order, in balance.
The first step in having your life in order is giving back. If you are reading this blog, you are better off than much of the world's population. You can read. You have access to a computer and you have the skills to use it. By comparison, more than a billion people are illiterate and even more live on less than $2 a day. So, you are one of the lucky ones.
The appropriate response to this good fortune is gratitude and generosity. We all have some way that we can give back. For some of us, we can donate money to worthy causes. We might be able to donate our time and skills. Our opportunities are varied and can be formal or informal.
The first step in giving back is deciding something that you can do. Perhaps you want to set aside a certain percentage of your income for charitable donations. Many charities offer the option of having monthly donations subtracted from your bank account. It's easy for you and the charity knows how much it can expect each month. You can also make periodic donations to causes that matter to you. I prefer to make my donations periodically (say quarterly) so that I can research the recipients. (www.charitynavigator.org is a great way to research possible recipients. You want your money to go where it will do the most good.)
If you want to give of your time and skills, you have to decide if you want to do something occasionally or regularly. Many volunteer programs require a weekly or monthly commitment for a specified period of time. Other efforts can happen on your schedule. Only you can decide if you are more comfortable reading to children, working the information desk at a hospital, offering to fundraise for a community group, or helping to install new playground equipment.
Even if you don't have extra funds in your bank account and your health limits your ability to be out and about, there are still ways you can give back. There are volunteer things you can do from home, such as stuffing envelopes, making phone calls, and building and maintain community websites or mailing lists. You can even identify a few people in the community who might benefit from regular calls just to check in on how they are going.
As with anything, start small and experiment to find what works best for you. It's perfectly fine to try out several things to find what you enjoy most. Because that's one of the great things about giving back - you get more than you expect.