Ah, summer. A time for vacationing, sand between toes, sitting by the pool, and watching as an ever-increasing percentage of your paycheck goes to paying to keep your home below 85 degrees.
But amidst all the heat and the fun, summer is a great time to take stock of how each of us is positively impacting our wider communities. Looking for ideas—big and small—to take action this summer? These aren’t silver bullets to change the world, but little suggestions to have a lasting positive impact on your community.
1. Participate in a community garden
We all love fresh vegetables in our summer salads. Why not grow a little community at the same time? A quick Google search of your area should turn up any nearby community gardens where you can show up to plant and harvest. In my home city of Baltimore, there are plenty of urban farms that are looking for volunteers—your hometown might have something similar, especially if you live in a more rural area. And of course, buying from local farms—whether at a farmers’ market or through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)—is a great way to combine community, shopping local, and food.
2. Subscribe to a local newspaper
No matter which side of the partisan aisle you fall on, local journalism is always in need of support. Why not subscribe to your local paper this summer? Learn a little bit more about your community and support your neighbors in the process.
3. Support a local business
Need a pizza on a Friday night? A gift for that upcoming baby shower? Maybe some new artwork to hang on your wall? Resist the temptation to turn to Amazon and check out the mom-and-pop shops in your neighborhood. (Don’t cheat. Big chain strip malls don’t count.)
4. Subscribe to an ‘Action Alert’ list
I know we all hate the constant buzzing of our phones, but staying in touch with what’s going on in the world is essential. Action alerts combine news with, well, action by giving users a clear next step to take to have an impact, e.g. call your senator, sign a petition, etc. I get push notifications from several news sources, and action alerts sent to my email from Catholics Confront Global Poverty and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.
5. Volunteer to mentor a young person
School’s out, but that doesn’t mean young people don’t still need mentors. Look for a good opportunity to volunteer to mentor a young person in your community. You might find something cool like Thread, a organization that aims to create a social web of support around a young person, or check out Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
6. Engage opposing points of view
Use these months of summer to commit to empathy. There’s a lot of negative energy swirling around us these days. Try to cut through it by listening to those who share a different perspective than you. That can take a bit of self-discipline and deep listening, especially on issues that are important to you. That means we all need to get out of our social media echo chambers. For a great how-to, on the topic, I suggest watching this great, timely Heineken ad.
7. Share upbeat articles on social media
If I only scrolled through my Facebook feed, I’d think we were all headed for imminent disaster. That’s because I know a lot of people who can be kind of a bummer on social media. Don’t be like those people. Share content that invokes hope, joy, and inclusivity. Three places to start looking: Up Beat, HuffPost Good News, and Sunny Skyz.
8. Attend a community meeting
If you’re like me, it’s easy to get up in arms about the little things going wrong in your neighborhood: trash on the streets, loud neighbors, public transit that runs at odd intervals. That’s why my wife and I plan to attend meetings in our community—to share our opinions, hear ideas from others, and get involved. You should, too.
9. Be a good neighbor
Make sure you’re a presence in your community. That starts with simply being seen. Sit on your porch, back step, front stoop—wherever. And talk to people as they pass by. That means introducing yourself to neighbors, offering to help out if someone is moving or undertaking a big home improvement project, and knocking on newcomers’ doors. Each day, think about how you simply being you can add something positive to your neighborhood.
10. Give to a worthy cause
At the end of the day, organizations that do things we are passionate about and love can only keep doing those things if they have enough money to keep the lights on. Charity Navigator and Charity Watch are good places to find reputable charities that are in line with your personal values.