What does it mean to be a conscious citizen? In her monthly column, senior strategic leader in sustainable and international development, Natasha Hafez explores and expounds on precisely that. Join in her journey towards humanity with purpose.
‘Tis the season of thanksgiving.
Feast your eyes on this: generosity fills the air (with notes of cloves and orange zest), expressions of gratitude and random acts of kindness transform the spirit and ethos of our culture and traditions, and our world gains an extra “je ne sais quoi!”
Thanksgiving, the national US and Canadian holiday celebrating the harvest and blessings of the preceding year, is much more than a day; it is a way of thinking about the world, and the gifts we have to share with it.
Did you know that the ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling we get from helping others is actually beneficial to our physical and mental health too? According to the Cleveland Clinic, a US top-ranked hospital and medical research facility, several studies show that giving thanks and offering gifts (financial or emotional support) to others can lower blood pressure, boost our immunity, and support greater longevity. That’s pretty good news for a post-traumatic-pandemic world.
Whether cooking a bountiful meal for friends and family, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or stopping to say hello to a stranger, there are countless ways we can give back to the world. It’s as easy as pie!
Here are five ways to help motivate and jumpstart your gratitude and gift-giving journey:
1. Take With You Memories, Leave Only Footprints – Travel Responsibly
Escaping snowy, frigid temperatures for a warm island escape this winter? Consider researching destinations and properties that align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Invest your small-island tourism dollars in countries that are preserving natural and cultural heritage. Some countries have environmental protection written into their constitutions, while others demonstrate an ongoing commitment to conservation by prioritising costs and care of their national parks, marine reserves, and wildlife refuges. Samoa is one of 38 vulnerable Small-Island Developing States (SIDS) that has demonstrated strong leadership by calling for ambitious and urgent action on climate change, increasing efforts in protecting its biodiversity, conserving sustainable use of its natural resources, and adopting strategies and tourism interventions for visitors and businesses to promote and partner for greater development of the SDGs.
2. Big Change $tarts Small – Support Local
Shop locally for gifts by visiting the holiday markets and fairs. Be sure to check out the farmer’s market for fresh and local produce if you are hosting the holiday feast this year. Small businesses can be an important economic engine for local communities and their national economy.
3. There’s No Time Like the Present – Give the Gift of Your Time
Strengthening community starts with prioritising time for others. Allocate time with family with mobiles switched off, offer to help run an errand for someone, take an extra break from work to play with your dog, visit a distant relative, volunteer your time at a hospital or shelter. Don’t forget to gift yourself some of that much-deserved time and attention too. Carve out time by setting a daily reminder on your phone for pure joy. During that timeframe cozy up with a hot cup of tea, send yourself some flowers, or just close your eyes, reflect, and celebrate your accomplishments.
4. Host a FUNdraiser or Donation Drive
Pick an organisation or mission you care about and inquire what they need the most. Throw a fun holiday dinner party, host a cookie exchange, or organise a virtual cocktail party with friends and family near and far to engage a larger community that will help support the cause. Ask your guests to bring a donation to the party or insert a link to the organisation in your annual Christmas cards or emails.
5. A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats – Be Kind to Everyone
We never know what others are going through. Extending a smile to a stranger, waving to a neighbour, or complimenting someone is a free and easy way to give back and buoy someone up. Help carry your neighbour’s groceries, jump in and pay for the customer standing ahead of you in line at the coffee shop, or pick up a piece of litter and throw it in the bin. Practice more compassion with yourself too, not only with the rest of the world.
Start with these suggestions, or identify new opportunities to give back; your mental and physical health will thank you, and so will the people and planet your actions will help impact. Giving back builds healthier and more economically viable communities. Whether feast or famine, when we serve our global community, we serve ourselves.
Is your cup half-full? Half-empty? Or are you just thankful for simply even having a cup?
Ride along with me on this great gravy train.
The Conscious Citizen