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Person Doing Shopping For Elderly Neighbour

Blog post written by Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., MBP Consulting, LLC, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Extension

Today I heard a radio program on how each and every one of us can make a difference in someone’s life. This seems impossible as we are bombarded with stories of war, terrorism, families in crisis, political conflicts, and other negative things happening in our communities and around the world. Katherine Fritz was on the radio program and she shared fifteen things I could do when the world feels like a terrible place.

Katherine’s list can be found at, 15 Things You Can Do When the World Feels Like a Terrible Place. A few of her suggestions were giving clothing to the needy, sending a note to someone who has influenced you and let them know you are thinking of them, and leaving an extra-large tip to someone who serves you such as a waitress, the paper boy, etc. Her list made me realize that I could make a difference in the people’s lives with whom I interact.

So I experimented to see what would happen if I did little things and reached out to others with kindness. I consciously made an effort to smile at people I didn’t know while at the grocery store, make a friendly comment to the store clerk, and let my husband’s doctor’s nurse know how much we appreciated her responding to our questions and requests. Those people I reached out to responded with a smile, a nice comment or said thank you and really meant it.

It was amazing that I felt better for reaching out to them and it put me in a more positive frame of mind. I thought about how sometimes I get wrapped up in my own world of caregiving and develop a “poor me” attitude. When I have the “poor me” attitude I have a tendency to be negative and my temper is short. Basically, I’m not a happy person. When I am mindful about being positive, I find myself looking for ways to be kind. I am more likely to reach out to others. It’s as if I am on a mission to see if I can get a smile out of others, and as a result people respond positively to me.

It reminds me of a high school graduation I attended years ago. The speaker focused on each of the graduates being a little above average in every facet of their lives and how that would not only improve their life but also make the world a better place to live. If I try to be above average in my efforts to reach out to others, I am emotionally healthier. Since I’m emotionally healthier I experience less stress, which allows me to have more patience and be a better listener.

With the New Year vastly upon us, I’m making a New Year’s resolution to be “above average” in reaching out to others and to do the little things that will make someone smile! I hope you will join me in being “above average” in reaching out to others so together we can make a difference in the life of the person we are caring for and also in the lives of others we don’t know.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on December 18, 2015.