Quite regularly I open my drawbridge for million dollar yachts. More often than not, the owners are very courteous. More often than not, they wave at me as they pass through. That’s the extent of our connection. Even so, at times like those I can’t help but think that just one day’s worth of interest on their savings account would solve so many of my problems. Like so many people these days, I’m struggling. Really struggling. It’s not unusual for me to wake up in a cold sweat, wondering how I’m going to pay my rent or even feed myself from one month to the next. I’m just one financial crisis away from homelessness. It’s the stuff of Hollywood to think that my personal million dollar yacht will someday come in, or that some man is going to swoop in and take me away from all this. It’s more realistic to realize that unless one of the million jobs I apply for comes through and it pays an amount that’s obscene enough to make up for the fact that I have nothing at all saved toward retirement, I will probably have to work until I drop dead, and that waking up in a cold sweat will be par for the course.
But a wise man once said to me that you can always look over your shoulder and see someone who is much worse off than yourself. I read somewhere that 75 percent of the planet makes due with one meal or less a day and no indoor plumbing. That being the case, I’m a very lucky woman indeed. You might say I’m one of the elite. So to whom should I give the interest from MY savings account? (Well, the answer to that is rather academic, since I usually earn about 2 dollars a year in interest, but you know what I mean, I’m sure.)
The good news is that there are lots of ways you can make a difference that won’t cost you a thing.
- Kiva is a wonderful organization that gives microloans to people in third world countries. These loans are in 25 dollar increments. That might not sound like much, but to some people, it can make all the difference in the world. Recently, my 25 dollar loan to a woman in Mongolia allowed her to double her income and buy a winter home. And the most amazing thing is that she paid me back! Granted, you don’t earn interest with these loans, but what you do get is a boatload of good karma. It took me a couple of months to scrape together that 25 dollars, but I did it, and now she’s got shelter in the winter in Mongolia. I mean, honestly, can you think of a better way to use 25 dollars? Once the money gets paid back to me, I always turn around and loan it to someone else. I’ve been using that same 25 dollars, over and over again, since 2006. I’ve made 37 loans so far. http://www.kiva.org
- Give blood. It won’t cost you a thing but your time, and you could save someone’s life.
- Become a marrow donor. Initially they just draw a vial of blood. If you are a match for someone, it becomes a bit more complicated of course, but again, you could save someone’s life. http://marrow.org/Home.aspx
- Register to be an organ donor. It’s not like you’ll miss those organs when you’re gone, right? But they could make all the difference in the world to someone else. http://www.organdonor.gov/index.html According to this website, 116, 624 people in America are waiting for organs RIGHT NOW.
- Grow out your hair and then donate it. I have done this three times, and it makes me smile to think of a little girl with cancer or alopecia running around with a wig made of my hair, getting a boost of self-esteem at a very trying time in her life. There are several organizations who will gladly take your donation, and I don’t want to show bias, so I just recommend that you Google “Hair Donation”
- Look in your closet. If you haven’t worn something in the past year, chances are you don’t need it anymore. Donate it. The person who buys it from them at a reduced price will be grateful, and the organization will benefit from the funds. Again, there are a ton of organizations that will take your items. Some will even come pick them up.
- Volunteer your time. There are a million organizations out there that could use your help! Here’s one resource to get you started. http://www.volunteermatch.org
- Recycle. Helping the planet helps its inhabitants.
- Support your local food bank with any extra food you have. Many food banks will even take the unwanted fruit from your trees, and vegetables from your garden, but I’d suggest you ask ahead about that.
- Instead of filling up our landfills with perfectly good stuff, post it on Freecycle! Chances are, there’s a neighbor who will be thrilled to take that item off your hands. http://www.freecycle.org/
- Be a good listener. I know it sounds cheesy, but sometimes people just need to be heard, and that makes all the difference in the world.
- Be a good neighbor. See that elderly woman struggling with her grocery bags? Go to it, man! It’s a small gesture for you, but it’s heroic for her.
See there? You can have an impact without spending a dime. What are you waiting for?