There’s a lot you could do. You could buy some blank stationery, or just get some good paper, and block out quiet time to sit at a table and write letters to 10 people you care about. Hand-written notes of encouragement, thanks or praise reach people in a profound way, and more than ever in the age of text messaging and email.

You could look up a school teacher or college professor or boss you liked, or someone you’ve come to appreciate after a lot of time and distance, and put them in the queue for a letter of gratitude.

You could write sweet notes to disagreeable, almost-former friends on Facebook. Or you could just unfriend them and hold them in memory the way they were before they became intolerable.

You could take your grill out to the sidewalk, or the end of the driveway, and grill sausage or hamburgers (or Impossible Burgers) for your neighbors. You could roast chestnuts, too, and offer them to anyone who walks by.

If you have a waffle press and an extension cord, you could set up a table in front of your house and make waffles for neighbors or strolling strangers. Even runners will stop for a warm waffle.

You could offer hot cider by the cup from a slow cooker.

You could make a pot of minestrone (look up the Marcella Hazan recipe) and bring it to someone who lives alone.

You could cook a pile of blueberry pancakes and deliver them on a weekend morning to the little kids who live next door.

You could make a squadron of paper airplanes for them, too.

There’s a lot you could do.

You could open your house for board games — Monopoly, Clue, Stratego, Scrabble — and set them up on different tables, and invite your friends and neighbors to drop by and play a round. You’ll all wonder why you don’t do it more often.

You could grab a couple of glasses, a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine or a jug of cider, and knock on your neighbor’s door. Your neighbor might seem mildly shocked but will quickly see that you mean business. So you’ll either end up at the kitchen table for an hour or in the front hallway for a few minutes. Either way, you’ll share a toast to the holidays and the coming year.

Another foodie thing: You could cook up a giant pot of spaghetti sauce, the kind that simmers for a day. After it cools, divide it into six or seven mason jars and give them out to neighbors.

If your kids are now adults, but you still have most of their children’s books, gather those you’re willing to part with, line them up on the kitchen table and invite six kids to come by at noon to pick out a book to take home. Cookies optional.

You could carry a big bag of oranges onto a bus or train during your commute and hand them out with some holiday cheer.

Everyone knows someone who needs a ride somewhere — people who don’t drive or don’t own a car. Produce some gift certificates, each good for one free ride within, say, 50 miles of home, and give them to the people you know who are transportation-challenged. Encourage them to take you up on the offer, too.

There’s a lot you could do.

You could make some good sandwiches and spend a couple of hours driving around to intersections where you’ve seen panhandlers, handing each of them something to eat.

Or you could park nearby, walk to the corner and motion to the panhandler that you’d like to have a conversation. Introduce yourself, hand the person a sandwich and say you’d like to know what they need besides money. Ask how you can help. Back off and walk away if the person is not interested in a conversation. But you’ll be surprised how eager some panhandlers are to talk. They are used to engaging strangers.

Think of three people who might be alone during these holidays. You could call each of them and invite them over for dinner or out for a drink. If they’re busy — not as left out as you suspected — then it’s all good.

You could choose a poem or a brief passage from a novel, knock on your neighbor’s door and offer to read or recite it. The Billy Collins poem about a Christmas Day sparrow would be good, or the Mary Oliver piece called, “This Morning.”

There’s a lot you could do — simple things — to end 2022 or start 2023 on a positive note.

4 thoughts on “There’s a lot you could do

  1. You are an amazing human being. I love you Dan Rodricks. That was a beautiful article, written with so much love inside of you. The world is so lucky to have you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you.  

    You’re right, there’s a lot I can do.  

    Thanks for reminding me.

    I hope you have a healthy New Year!

    Kathy Barlow


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    Liked by 1 person

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