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Here are 15 things you can do when the world feels like a terrible place

One way to feel better:   Take joy in watching children play (iStock)

Laquan MacDonald was seventeen and murdered by a Chicago police officer in cold blood. I watched the video of his murder, along with most of America, right in between reading about how Americans are terrified of letting refugees from war-torn Syria into the country, and reading about how a man with a rifle opened fire at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado.

Then last Wednesday, fourteen innocent people were murdered during a company meeting and holiday lunch in San Bernardino, California.

I can’t think of anything else to say that hasn’t already been said about how horrible and sad and awful and bleak and unfathomable all of those things are. I can’t. I don’t have the words for that today. So instead, here are fifteen things that you can do to make your world just the tiniest bit less terrible.

1. Open your closet. Find one warm piece of clothing that you haven’t worn in awhile. Bring it to a place that will give it away, for free, to someone who needs it.

[Related: Three ways to help yourself feel safe in an insane world]

If you see a parent looking stressed out, give them an encouraging smile, as if to say, “You’re doing a great job.”

3. Google a small-business florist near the site of any recent tragedy. Call and explain that you’d like to pay for flowers to be sent to, say, the staff of the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs (3480 Centennial Boulevard, Colorado Springs, CO 80907), or to Hope Church (5740 Academy Blvd N, Colorado Springs, CO 80918), where slain police officer Garrett Swasey and his family were members. When you leave a note, don’t make it about you, or your political or religious beliefs. Leave it anonymous, or simply say, “From a stranger who thought you might be sad today.”

5. There are several Dunkin’ Donuts within the general area of Sullivan House High School, the alternative school in Chicago’s South Side where Laquan MacDonald was enrolled. It’s probably been difficult for teachers and students both. Buy an e-gift card. Send the link to the faculty. Tell them a stranger bought them coffee. Of if you want to reach out to San Bernardino, you might try one of these ways to give.

6. Leave a copy of your favorite book in a public place. Trust that the right person will find it.

7. Locate your nearest animal shelter. You don’t need to adopt a pet, and you don’t need go in and volunteer, although that’s a really nice thing you can do, too. You can just look at the puppies and kittens playing for awhile, or feel what it’s like to hold a tiny, furry, purring creature in your arms for a bit.

8. Buy a ten-pack of socks for $9.99. Here’s a link to Amazon. Click it. When you are asked for your shipping address, find the address of a homeless shelter in your community. If you don’t have a homeless shelter in your community, here’s mine. 

9. Think of the kindest person you personally  know. Then write her/him an email, letting them know that you thought of them and hope they are doing well.

10. Buy an extra box of tampons the next time you’re out shopping. Leave them in the ladies’ room of your workplace for anyone to take. (If you’re a dude and this weirds you out, talk to this fifteen-year-old kid about it).

11. Think about the people that you frequently interact with in your daily life but know very little about: the barista who works at your coffee shop, the janitor in your building, your mailperson. Introduce yourself. Call them by name whenever you see them again.

12. Go to a diner. Order a milkshake. Tip ten dollars.

13. Get a pile of index cards and a Sharpie. Write down, “You are Important,” or “Breathe.”  Carry them with you as you go about your day, leaving them in waiting room magazines, on car windshields, in elevators, in bathroom stalls. Keep one for yourself. We all need the reminder sometimes, too.

14. Dig up an embarrassing photo of yourself from your teenage years. Post it online. Laugh gently at the person you were, and celebrate the human you are now. If you’re still in the process of living through your teenage years, take lots of pictures. You’re doing great.

15.  Accept that there are tons of incredibly easy ways to make the world a slightly less terrible place for everyone, and that you may not do very many of them, and that while it’s not ideal, it doesn’t make you a terrible person. It just makes you a human.

Do what you can.

Katherine Fritz blogs at I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog. This piece was adapted with permission from one of her posts.

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