Whenever I encounter a person going through a rough time, my first inclination is always, “let’s go out and buy them something!”–buy them dinner, coffee, ice cream, a candle, de-stressing lotion, etc.
While there certainly is always value in these types of thoughtful and altruistic gestures, and the act of serving, thinking, and giving to others should never go unopposed, and there certainly are times and situations in which giving in these ways is appropriate, as I’m on my unmaterialistic and non-consumerist kick, I’ve been contemplating how I can give back to others without this monetary attachment.
Acknowledgement: There is this strange unspoken filament that runs through our existence in probably our secondary educations that we should not acknowledge people who exist outside of our social circles. This is probably an invisible social construction we learn from the movies; Cady Heron shouldn’t acknowledge Regina George in ‘Mean Girls’, because that probably means Cady admits to herself that she is creepy, a loser, a stalker, and that for some reason, it is a social faux pas to reveal that you remember/know someone outside of your social standing. IF Cady remember Regina (and Regina does not remember Cady), then that obviously means that Regina has WAY more important things to entertain in her memory than Cady Heron.
Physical Touch: I remember being a single person, and despite the fact that I was still very social, had a large circle of people I interacted with, I would still go weeks without touching another human (which, as studies say, is really really really bad–as humans, we need physical touch). This is actually one of my favorite parts of instructing yoga. In my own practice, I know how relieving and releasing it can be to receive an adjustment–that reaches a certain part of my body that I may not necessarily be able to get myself. Because we all type on our computers all day, text all day, and then get into our cars and drive, we are all tight, curved over, and lacking physical touch–so a little pat of the elbow, tap on the shoulder, maybe a hug could go a long ways.
Drop a Note: In my opinion, words are WAY more powerful and meaningful than any kind of monetary gift we could give someone; words are authentic, they are unique, words reflect and suspend a moment in our existence. I always love a “Hey, I was walking down the street and it reminded me of that you….”, “I was just reflecting on our last conversation, and I really like how you said….”, “Remember that time when ….?”. Sometimes, I think we are guarded with our words because we think they are limited; I have a finite resource of words and when they are gone, done, used up, I won’t have anymore to share. But, that’s not true. Words are infinite; we can share as many as we want!
Piggy Back an Errand: Are you mailing your cell phone bill, and you know your room mate’s is due as well? Do you have to make a trip to Target, and you know that your significant other needs stronger mouthwash? Are you driving to visit your sister, and you know that your friend has to pick up her bridesmaid’s dress in the same area? Do you have to go to the bookstore, and you know a classmate needs the same book? I know that, in my experience, other people piggy backing errands for me has saved me a significant amount of time (and gas money and stress and also carbon emissions on the environment). If you are in that direction anyways, might as well collapse the errands together.
Promote Others Endeavors: Well, if it’s a MLM, then I’d say no (because that is just promoting more consumerism–when you buy more stuff, more stuff has to be produced to replace it). But, say your friend is working on losing weight. You don’t want to reward her with an ice cream or Diet Coke (that maybe invites in all the old habits she’s been working so hard to curb), and you don’t want to buy her a smaller pair of yoga pants (because if you purchase the wrong size, THAT could be worse), and her Zumba class doesn’t fit into YOUR schedule, but what you CAN do is support her endeavors–ask her how her diet/exercise routines are going, compliment her progress, be happy when she returns from Zumba, send positive words of affirmation–let her know that you are cheering for and supporting her endeavors.
Connect to Resources: Six Degrees of Separation, Right? Do you know someone who needs a dog walker, and someone who has afternoons off? Do you know someone who is doing a project on yoga, and you happen to know a yoga guru? Do you know someone who just declared being Gluten Free, and you happen to know a blogger who writes Gluten Free recipes? Connect these people together.
Tie Up Loose Ends: We’ve all been in a situation before where someone has said, “Let’s hang out on Friday night!” and then never follows up (but, because it was said, you expect to hang out on Friday night so you block your calendar off). Or, someone sends you a text message, confirming an appointment, and you don’t respond back. By not responding back, what you are gifting the other person is maybe some anxiety, unease, anticipation (which are actually not gifts at all). So by tying up these loose ends, we can gift others serenity, ease, and maybe a slot in their schedule to plan something else.