by Father Mark Goldasich
One book short. That’s what I felt a couple of weeks ago, as I was putting together my list of possible Christmas gift books here. I’d received a promotional flyer for what I thought would be a wonderful book to recommend but, sadly, after requesting a copy, I found out it was not yet published.
Well, guess what? Last week, a copy of the book arrived and it is every bit as wonderful as I expected. And I have to admit that God’s timing is much better than mine (once again). The book is much more appropriate to recommend as we head into a brand new decade of this still new millennium.
Based on the popular idea of “paying it forward,” the book’s intention is simple: to help readers take advantage of a moment “to make tomorrow a better place, for seeing opportunities to act and to give.” If you do just one of the suggestions in this volume per day, you should complete them all by the middle of 2023. Yes, there really are that many ideas here.
Oh, by the way, the title of the book is “5001 Simple Things to Do for Others (and Yourself)” (Liguori, Mo.: Liguori Publications, 2010; 306 pgs.; $19.99). The authors are listed as “your friends at Liguori Publications.” The book is broken down into 130 short sections, which provide one- or two-sentence ideas for doing good. While many common sense items are listed, there are also loads of ideas I would never have thought of. (And the fact that even the “common sense” things have grown uncommon in the lives of many means that we need a refresher course in them.)
Here is just a sampling of the sections: Simple Ways to Start Paying It Forward; Super Nice at the Supermarket; Gym Gems; For the Troops & Veterans; More Soulful on the Job; Advice Young Adults Don’t Want to Hear; Crafty for a Cause; If I Had A Hammer; Satisfying Basic Needs for the Homeless; Fashion Forward; Improving Life When You Don’t Have a Job; Teaching Kids About Sports; and Lead the Charge to Paradise. For just about every conceivable situation, there are some practical suggestions listed.
Until you get your own copy of “5001 Simple Things,” here are a few items to get your new year off to a positive start:
10. Say a prayer when you hear a siren — there is usually a victim behind it.
42. Stop to consider the consequences of your actions.
265. If you have a basement and live in a tornado-prone area, make sure your basementless neighbors know they are welcome to seek shelter there.
266. Roll an elderly neighbor’s garbage cans back up the driveway at the end of trash pick-up day.
558. Dance with your children, and teach them to dance or sing or play a musical instrument.
570. Help children to experience the delight of giving.
1488. Ask if your employer would hire nonviolent parolees for employment. These people have a very hard time finding employment.
2258. Buy gift cards at popular food chains and give them to the homeless who may solicit you for change.
2618. Send get well cards, but don’t stop at just one if the person will have a long recovery — send one every two weeks. (Put it on your calendar as a reminder!)
2622. Set a date to eat lunch with a good friend every month, without fail.
2671. Write a nice little note to someone and put it on their car windshield or driver’s side window. They will be very pleasantly surprised when they leave at the end of the day and see a nice note from you!
2680. Master the 30-day rule — wait 30 days before buying, then ask yourself if you still want it.
3805. Never say “I don’t know”; say “I’ll find out.”
4596. Buy church cookbooks. They always contain the best recipes.
4601. Ask your pastor if someone on your church’s sick list would like a visit, then visit her.
4609. Sit in the first pew.
The book’s cover features a bowl of cherries. It’s a visual reminder that doing these suggestions can make life a bowl of cherries — something that is very pleasant for all — instead of “the pits.”
I’d add one more thing; call it no. 5002: Get a copy of this book for yourself and for at least three of your friends. Start doing the suggestions; cross off the ones you’ve accomplished. Then on Jan. 1, 2011, look back and see if it isn’t true that “kindness, like a boomerang, always returns.”