It’s during tough economic times like the one we’re currently going through that we’re given messages to save our money, tighten our belts and focus on getting our families through the rough patches, but I think this might actually be the best time to look at the world around us, help those less fortunate than we are and focus on our communities instead of ourselves.

There’s something about the American culture that feeds the need to channel our energy on caring for those close to us and letting those around us worry about themselves. But consider for a moment what it would be like if you suddenly lost your job and were forced out on the streets with your family. What would you do if you lost your health insurance but suddenly fell ill with a chronic, costly condition? Where would you turn if your car and home were repossessed?

While I certainly agree that we can’t care for others without ensuring our basic needs are met first, I would also argue that it’s during these difficult financial times that we should especially be thinking about those who have less than we do.

In October 2006, Oprah Winfrey gave all 300 members of her audience $1000 to donate to a charitable cause of their choice. The Paying It Forward Challenge turned into a national movement, and the idea of charity became a common topic of conversation. It’s four years later, and while I’m sure people love the idea of lending a financial hand to others, the idea of disposable income has become a distant memory for many people.

But giving to those in need does not have to involve the exchange of cash. With the holiday season approaching, we’re all going to be bombarded with legitimate requests from charities and causes that need our financial help, and it would be a perfect world if we could all continue to give the way we have in years past, but that’s just not reasonable.

It pays to practice good karma, but you don’t have to give monetarily. Here are some examples of how you, too, can pay it forward without spending a dime:

  • Offer to give someone who doesn’t have a car a ride home, especially if he is weighed down with a bag of groceries or just spent a long day at work on his feet.
  • Have your leftovers from a restaurant packaged up, but give them to a homeless person on your way home instead of saving them for yourself.
  • Give blood. Only 38% of Americans are eligible to give blood, but only 8% of those people do. That means that currently, only three in 100 Americans is actively donating blood. If you are unable to give blood, consider donating your time to the American Red Cross instead.
  • People aren’t the only victims of the financial problems. Thousands of pets have been turned out to fend for themselves. Volunteer your time with a local organization to trap and release, help find homes for those abandoned or foster ones that are too young to be adopted yet.

The old saying of what goes around, comes around is, in many ways, more true now than ever before. Small, random acts of kindness today may pay back tenfold some day when you need it most.

In support of this movement, The Specific Chiropractic Center will be providing all new patient exams (including any necessary x-rays) in exchange for a full bag of non-perishable food items. Now you can begin your journey back to health and at the same time pay it forward to others who are also in need.

What will you do to make someone smile?

REFERENCES

American Red Cross. RedCrossBlood.org. Retrieved September 27, 2010 from http://www.redcrossblood.org/.

HelpOthers.org. Retrieved September 27, 2010 from http://www.helpothers.org/index.php.

Paying It Forward. Oprah.com. (January 1, 2006) Retrieved September 27, 2010 from http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Paying-It-Forward.