I try to do these things as much as possible. Admittedly, they’re for a selfish reason: happy people make me happy. I’ve found these things either make people happy, or keep people from being grumpy. I honestly think if we all did these things, the world would be a little better of a place.
1. Un-jam the paper towel dispenser. When using a public restroom, before you throw your paper towels away take two seconds to make sure the machine is ready to dispense a towel to the next person by pushing/twisting whatever mechanism is there. Help others avoid that annoyance of trying to spin that germy feed with wet, slippery hands. Not applicable to some electric machines, of course.
2. Smile at every service person you interact with. Seriously. It’s not their fault that you’re having a bad day because you’re tired or late or your coworker’s a jerk. Many of them work thankless jobs. So smile. Thank them, and mean it. They may be having a bad day, too, but someone who’s being kind rather than taking it out on them can help lift their spirits. And once in a rare while one may give you a free cookie or hook you up with a discount, just for being nice. Genuinely nice. (While you’re at it, be nice to the people at 800 numbers, too; it’s not their fault the company has an automated phone system or that you had to wait on hold for 20 minutes.)
3. Grab one plastic grocery bag and put it in your purse/backpack/pocket. When you’re out shopping, pull that bag out first before using the store’s bags. You don’t have to get crazy with a pile of cloth bags, just one plastic bag. And those bags take up almost NO space (especially if you take 30 seconds to fold it).
4. Something on the floor? Pick it up. We all see places where someone bumped something and it fell off the shelf. Unless it’s damaged, pick it up and put it back where it belongs. Yes, I know that you didn’t knock it down and that it’s someone else’s job to pick it up. But make that person’s job a little easier. Take five seconds to pick up that handful of brochures and stuff them back in the rack.
5. Pick up your trash. Yes, it’s considered standard and acceptable to leave your soda cup and popcorn bag on the floor in the movie theater. Yes, if you leave some trash behind in a waiting room someone will clean up after you. Pick it up anyway. Make their jobs easier.
6. Pick up other trash, when you can. When you see a piece of trash on the ground, look around. Is there a trash bin within twenty feet of you? Or can you see a trash bin in the direction you’re going? Pick up the trash and put it in the bin.
7. Recycle if you have the option. Even if you don’t recycle at home, if you come up to a place that has a trash can and a recycling can right next to each other put recyclables in the recycling bin.
8. Drink all of every glass of water you pour. Don’t dump out half-drunk glasses (unless a spider drowned in it or something). Water — especially clean drinking water — is an amazingly precious commodity. So drink it rather than pouring it down the drain. Most of us could use more water anyway.
9. Park in the back of the parking lot when you can. Yeah, out where there are big blocks of empty spaces. Save those close-in spots for the other folks coming who might need them more — elderly, disabled, those with small children. Save a smidge of pollution by not circling the lot looking for the closest spot. Bonuses: save a little gas (not circling), get a little exercise, and know exactly where your car is (it’s the one out in the middle of nowhere rather than hiding behind that big SUV).
10. Let mergers in. Yes, it feels like you’re giving something up when you let another driver in in front of you. And it sucks even more when people wait until the very very last second to merge, and then try to do so at a lower speed. But everybody has to merge sometime, and none of us are perfect drivers all the time. Not letting them in makes you stressed in this mental battle of wills (and stress lowers your gas mileage) and makes the other driver stressed that s/he can’t get in. Two more stressed drivers on the road is not what the world needs.
11. Break up a traffic jam. Stop-and-go traffic sucks. It makes us testy, and it’s bad for your car and uses lots of gas. In heavy congestion drive a consistent, slightly slower speed. You’ll lose minimal time in your commute and save gas and wear on your brakes. See this video. It totally works.
12. Keep right (0r left, depending on your country). Most of us know we’re supposed to keep right except to pass when we’re driving, but how about when we’re walking? Stay at the side of the path or corridor to allow room for people to pass you — runners or cyclists, or those hurrying to get to a meeting. Don’t walk so-many-abreast that you block traffic. And if you have to stop, don’t stop in the middle; move as far to the side as you can.
Bonus (and hardest) suggestion:
Someone made you mad? Give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that driver on the cell phone is driving erratically because they just got a call that a loved one is in the hospital. Maybe that service worker who’s grouchy with you just learned that the cost of their health insurance is going up while management is holding all salaries flat with no raises. Maybe the fact that your friend is kind of detached isn’t because s/he is mad at you but because s/he just hasn’t gotten enough sleep lately. Maybe none of these things is true and there are just jerks out there, but you can only control your own attitude — not theirs — and you don’t make the situation any better by being a jerk yourself.
What do you think? Anyone else have ideas for free, easy ways we can all make the world better?