In our series “A Helping Hand,” learn to show others how much you care about them through kind acts and thoughtful gestures.
Early September marks the unofficial end of summer and the start of the school year (in many places) It’s also the place on the calendar for a special holiday: International Day of Charity.
Established by the United Nations in 2012, this global holiday of giving back takes place every year on Sept. 5. The day commemorates the life’s work of St. Mother Teresa and was created to encourage people everywhere to follow her example of helping others in simple, meaningful ways.
You don’t have to be a saint yourself to celebrate International Day of Charity. Anyone can perform small acts of kindness that make a difference and brighten someone’s day.
Here, Ron Rescigno, a thought leader who helps nonprofit organizations inspire more people to support their causes, shares seven ideas for you to honor Mother Teresa and celebrate International Day of Charity.
Give small gifts to children
Performing a good deed for children can go a long way toward making their day — and it may even lead to a lifelong memory.
Seek out creative ways to be generous to kids you don’t know. You can arrange for an ice cream truck to stop at a local park and pay for everyone’s sweet treat or purchase tokens at the local arcade to give to those who don’t have the money to play. “My wife, Sue, and I regularly make it a practice at arcades to give any unused tokens or gift tickets to parents of small children when we are leaving,” Rescigno says.
These small gifts can make a big impression and encourage the recipients to live a life of generosity themselves.
Gift food to those with a lot on their plate
One of the best ways to encourage those around you who are going through challenges is to gift them a meal. “As one example, if someone you know has just given birth to a newborn, cook a meal for the family,” Rescigno says. “The mom will certainly appreciate it, as will the rest of the family.”
No time to cook? A premade gourmet meal from Harry & David will work. With dishes ranging from lasagna to pot pie to enchiladas, you’re sure to find something that appeals to every taste.
Pay it forward with a restaurant meal
If you find yourself eating out on Sept. 5, make someone’s evening by unexpectedly paying for their meal.
Rescigno’s family experienced the power of this charitable gift firsthand one year when they were driving to Orlando. As the family enjoyed dinner, their waitress handed them a piece of paper telling them another diner had paid for their meal. This simple gesture so touched Rescigno that he keeps the note in his wallet to this day.
Send flowers or food
Flowers will brighten anyone’s day, but many people consider them too extravagant to purchase for themselves. Shower someone you care about with love this International Day of Charity with a bouquet that says you’re thinking of them. If the object of your charity prefers snacks to snapdragons, you can always opt for a basket of fruit and sweets.
Maybe someone you hold dear is celebrating a birthday this time of year. If that’s the case, send them something from the Smile Farms BirthYAY Collection. Every gift purchased from this collection benefits the Farmers of Smile Farms, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting adults with developmental disabilities.
Put others’ needs first
Sometimes, the simplest gestures say the most. On International Day of Charity, Rescigno suggests being extra intentional about the needs of those around you.
“If you’re standing in line at a grocery store and an elderly person is waiting behind you with a big bundle, let that person get in front of you,” he said. “Invariably, the person will smile and be very grateful.
“Likewise, if you take public transportation to work and it’s crowded, offer your seat to someone who could benefit by sitting more than you,” he continued. “I have done this, and it always makes me feel good.”
If someone you know has just given birth to a newborn, cook a meal for the family. The mom will certainly appreciate it, as will the rest of the family.
Bake (or buy) treats for a cause
Charities work hard 365 days a year. Show them extra appreciation this Sept. 5 with a gift of cookies to celebrate International Day of Charity.
Choose a local cause you are passionate about and deliver enough cookies for the whole staff to enjoy. If you’d rather not bake, you can order a batch of cookies that express your thanks to be delivered on the special day.
Look out for your neighbors
If you want to adopt the spirit of International Day of Charity throughout the year, then be on the lookout for ways you can help out your neighbors without being asked. Shoveling snow and raking fall leaves are two wonderful ideas, and Rescigno suggests another act that’s well suited for summer.
“If your neighbor is on vacation and his daily newspaper delivery is piling up on his driveway or the front lawn, gather the newspapers up to deliver to the neighbor when he gets home,” he suggests. “When I have done this without being asked, it’s always a great surprise and a connection made!”
There’s no question that the world would be a better place if we found more ways to care for others. Be intentional about performing small acts of kindness this International Day of Charity, and you may find yourself reaping the rewards of living in a kinder community every day of the year.