Hot weather, cold drinks, maybe a trip to the beach? It’s summertime! And while you might be tempted over vacation to lounge poolside and work on that tan, remember that there are also plenty of opportunities to give back to your community and beyond. So, be the star of your own summer superhero movie, and get out there and save the world!
Help the poor
People live in poverty worldwide and, in ever increasing numbers, in the United States. We can all do something to help the poor — from volunteering our time to donating to a local charity. This summer, do your part to support your neighbors in need.
- Volunteer — Use some of your free time this summer to volunteer and work with the poor. Find out what opportunities exist at your local parish, Catholic Charities, or another organization.
- Donate — Turn your yearly yard or tag sale into a fundraiser for a charity or ministry at your parish that helps the poor. Drop off any unsold clothing, furniture, or household goods at a local Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other local charity that might use them, like a homeless shelter or transitional home for people coming out of prison.
- Take action — Follow action alerts from Catholics Confront Global Poverty, and be in touch with your elected officials about issues related to poverty. What social justice issue are you passionate about? Find a campaign or action alert center that will help you put that passion into action.
Care for creation
During the summer, it’s easy to forget how much energy we use and trash we create — blasting the air conditioner to cool off, flooding the flower garden with the hose, and using garbage bags full of plastic cups and cutlery for the 4th of July barbecue. So, while you’re outside enjoying God’s creation, think about the ways you might care for creation.
- Walk or bike — I get it. No one wants to walk 25 miles to work in 85-degree weather. But take advantage of a gorgeous day and walk or bike to your destinations when you can. Fresh air and exercise do the body good. Plus, you’re saving fuel and cutting back on pollution.
- Conserve water — Take shorter showers and save your shower water or other gray water for your garden; try not to run the washing machine as often (it’s not like you’re going to wear much clothing anyway), and drink from reusable water bottles.
- Clean up — Volunteer for a neighborhood trash pick-up or organize your own. Don’t forget about the streets and roads around your parish, too.
Liberate the captives
Concerned and passionate about human rights? You’re not alone. But with so many domestic and international human rights issues — from human trafficking to torture — you might wonder, Where do I start?
- Become informed — Human Rights Watch offers news, analysis, and resources intended to inform the public on various human rights issues around the world.
- Get involved — With organizations such as Amnesty International and Not For Sale, it’s easy to show your support through volunteering, petition signing, letter writing, or attending local human rights events.
- Buy fair trade — The workers and farmers who manufacture and harvest fair trade products are justly compensated for the goods they produce, everything from coffee to textiles. Online vendors and supermarkets such as Whole Foods carry these goods. Read the labels and purchase with a purpose!
Head Back to School
Every person deserves the opportunity to learn and grow. There are several things you can do to help the schoolchildren and other learners in your local community.
- Donate books — Reading not only educates; it exercises the imagination. Donate old books to your local school, library, or an after-school program.
- Volunteer — Sign up now to volunteer in a summer reading program or another summer program for children, or plan for the fall and find a local tutoring or ESL program that could use your help.
Support Disaster Relief
Natural disasters can rip a community — literally — to pieces. Look for ways you can contribute to the recovery and rebuilding process as people put their lives back together.
- Volunteer — If you live near an affected area or have the ability to travel, donate your time to a relief or rebuilding cause. Organizations like HandsOn Network, the American Red Cross, and Catholic Charities work in disaster areas to provide assistance. This might mean helping to sort clothing and food for those in need or actually working hands-on to clear debris and rebuild homes.
- Hold a fundraiser — Host a dinner party or barbecue and ask family and friends to make a donation (maybe the cost of a nice restaurant meal) toward a disaster relief effort you choose.
Previously published July 2013