Contributing beyond one’s self brings with it a sense of fulfillment that we can’t get from buying things. Here are four examples of ways that we can contribute to others in a meaningful way:
Scenario One: Seek Out & Give
Try this: give $10 to the next guy you see standing on the street corner.
But what if I don’t have an extra $10? You do. Even if you’re broke you have $10 you can give up.
But what if he just uses my money to buy alcohol? He might. But what if you’re wrong? What if he uses it to buy food to keep from starving? Instead of focusing on the worst that can happen, why not focus on the best that can happen?
Better yet, don’t give him the $10. Instead, use that $10 to take the guy out to eat. Have a conversation with him. It might change his life. Or the feeling you get from it might change yours. Sometimes giving changes everything.
Something is built into us—hardwired at birth—that makes us feel great when we are kind, when we are giving, when we contribute to others.
Scenario Two: Donate Unused Things
How many coats do you need? How many pairs of jeans? What else do you have excess of in your life?
Why not donate that stuff to someone who needs it more than you?
You might recall, from a previous essay, that Joshua just donated the majority of his remaining clothes to Goodwill recently:
And Ryan donated a ton of stuff during his journey into minimalism, too.
You can find the charity that is right for you at Donation Town (some charities will even come to your home to pick up your donation).
Plus you can write off your donations at tax time. Joshua Becker wrote about the details you’ll need for a tax write-off here. And Merlin Mann has an interesting concept for scheduling your donation day.
Scenario Three: Donate Your Time
Last Saturday, we spent our day donating our time. We helped rehab a house, alongside our friends at Habitat for Humanity, for a family in Dayton, Ohio. Not only did we get to help a family who needed help, but we got to pick up some practical home-repair skills as a bonus.
We also participate in other community events like soup kitchens, park clean-ups, volunteering at schools (tutoring, painting gyms, school maintenance), and any other way we can give back to the people in our community.
The most valuable thing you can give someone is your time. How are you going to give your time to others?
Here’s a recommendation: schedule one day next month with some friends, family, and coworkers in which you give back to your community. Be generous, and have fun with it—we’re certain it will improve your life, as well as the lives of others.
Scenario Four: Help People in the Moment
While Ryan was in the checkout line at the grocery store recently there was a young couple standing in front of Ryan, holding their newborn baby. Ryan noticed they contemplating which items to return the to shelves because they realized they didn’t have enough money to purchase everything they’d brought to the register. The urge to contribute—that same hardwired desire to help we all have—kicked in, and so Ryan purchased the items that they couldn’t afford.
We’re not writing about these things because we want everyone to see how nice we are. We’re writing about how we contribute because we want you to contribute, too.
We want you to hear that voice inside you that tells you to do something kind or generous for someone else. We want you to take action. Sometimes that voice can be quiet and easy to ignore, so we’re simply reminding you that it’s there.
When Ryan got that “you need to do something” feeling in the checkout line, he didn’t overthink—he acted. You can do the same thing; you can condition yourself to take action.
Take Action & Contribute
If there is something in your life right now that you’ve been wavering on, a decision of should I or shouldn’t I, just act on what you know is right. Act on that built-in voice. You’ll feel great if you do.
The other great thing about doing what’s right isn’t just the feeling you get, it’s also the payback you’ll get when you least expect it, when you need it. Colin Wright calls this paying it forward. And it works.
More people must contribute. Start today, start now. We’re certain you can make a difference.
If you find value in The Minimalists, consider donating a dollar.