TED Conversations

Jennifer Heitler

Director of Marketing, Cosential

This conversation is closed.

Without spending money, how can I make the biggest impact on my community with 15 minutes/day?

As a mother of two with a full-time job, I find it hard to find the time to give back. I want to change, but need to be realistic about my availability. I would love to hear any suggestions you may have about giving back in short spurts. Bring it!

  • Aug 4 2011: Simple, smiling at every person you see in 15 minutes .. and why not, all day ..
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    Aug 4 2011: Give 15 minutes more exclusive time to your KIDs, they are future of community.... so more you can shape them up that will help the community in a great way..............
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    Aug 3 2011: This may not have the greatest impact on the community as a whole, but it will impact those you reach greatly.

    Seek out who the elderly are in your immediate vicinity, particularly those with children living far away, and check in on them every day or two.
    -See if they need groceries, or be inquisitive and learn what they eat to determine if they're eating well.
    -Find out how to contact their grown children in the case of an emergency, and to let them know they can contact you if there's a concern or problem - i.e. the phone is unplugged or out of service and they can't reach their elderly parent.
    -If you notice they rarely leave home, invite them to join you on a 5-10 minute walk down the street to the mailbox just to get them moving a little, and their blood circulating
    -Ask if they need a ride somewhere if they no longer drive. Sometimes just a drive through the neighborhood is uplifting. It helps them feel connected to the world around them.
    -If they have nobody that checks in often, see if there are prescriptions they need filled or have stopped taking. Give them gentle reminders about taking them if it's appropriate or needed.

    I'm currently helping to care for my 88 yr old mother who is experiencing dementia/Alzheimer's. She covered up many of her needs on our phone conversations. She lives in NYC and I was in Idaho. Even now that I'm here, I'm hard pressed to find someone to call, in her neighborhood, to check in on her when I'm gone. We had no idea how small her world had become, and how much she had let slide. These are things that can only be observed by someone who is near on a consistent basis. The primary need, in my opinion, for all our elders is connection. Perhaps that's a primary need we all share on this planet.
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      Aug 4 2011: I used to live in NYC and LA where there were many elderly folks in my community. I recently moved to Austin and I'm not so sure where all the older folk are.... it seems like a very young city. I love the idea though, because we are all a village after all. xo Jen
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    Aug 4 2011: Walk rather than ride.
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    Aug 4 2011: Whatever you do out of these nice suggestions in those 15 minutes, just promise yourself, "Tomorrow,I will do better than this."
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    Aug 9 2011: Read to your kids and include other kids whenever possible. Great question! I enjoy the responses.
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      Aug 13 2011: Reading aloud is the best way to jump start awesome literacy skills....which I believe is the most important thing for the success of our children! Great idea, Drew!
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    Aug 9 2011: I would start by thinking about things you are passionate about or the talents you already possess and how you could use them in your own unique way to give.

    Are you great at story telling or good with arts and crafts? You could get your children involved too and reach out to other kids in the community by teaching or inspiring in some way. Perhaps you are great at multi tasking, organizing, parenting? Maybe you could help other mothers better juggle their time with career and family. Perhaps you are passionate about education or spirituality or helping others to help themselves. The possibilities endless!

    Begin with what moves you and inspires you, because if you do it from the heart and enjoy what you do, then you are more apt to follow through...and perhaps even make a difference in someone elses life as well as your own.
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      Aug 13 2011: I agree 100% with you Leila! Great advice! :o)
  • Aug 5 2011: Do (model) small things that others can pick up on and that collectively will make measurable differences. For example, on your way into stores, pick up a few pieces of trash and deposit in the receptacles usually placed at doors. Or take a grocery cart in with you. Randomly smile and make slightly prolonged eye contact with others. Follow up with someone and remind them of something they did, relatively recently, that positively influenced you. Voluntarily reach/help neighbors with little things, i.e. carrying in groceries or moving a large plant. The list is almost endless. All these types of things make the exchanges of community a bit more available, and in my experience, reduce the parallel living characteristic of so many of our communities.
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    Aug 4 2011: If you want to make biggest impact in giving back your society in 15 minutes a day spent that fifteen minutes with your children and teach them the best moral and spiritual lessons to your children and see the change right from your home, because human becomes social when he she grow family with children and raise them, so very first your society starts from being parents, so charity always starts from home and your children should be the first benefiting humans, and providing knowledge to children will be the biggest charity without a single penny! And you will see for yourself that what great change it will make to your children and also they will do the same with other fellow citizens of your country.

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    Aug 4 2011: Listen to someone who needs a listener.
  • Aug 4 2011: I would suggest that the greatest impact we make to our universe is being aware at the deepest and inclusive levels. To develop that character quality needs conscious discipline. One strategy could be meditating every day for 15 minutes with the intention to listen, and expect that as we become more aware, our impact on our immediate universe will have an impact on the whole.
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      jag . 50+

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      Aug 4 2011: Great point Douglas, this was the first this that popped into my mnd. Gandhi said 'Be the change you want to see', and in my experience the only true change can happen from the inside. Some methods that I have found highly effective are 'the sedona method' and 'the work by katie byron'. Good luck :)
      • Aug 4 2011: Thank you for helping to clarify the point. The sedona method or Byron katie's 4 questions and the turnaround are great ways to prepare ourselves to receive insights.
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    Aug 3 2011: Just smile. And be nice.

    Joy is contagious. :)
  • Aug 10 2011: Any spare time on this site...http://www.freerice.com/
    It gives 10 grains of rice for every answer you give.
    • Aug 13 2011: I signed up on this website and its honestly quite addicting watching the bowl fill up, thank you for the link!
  • Aug 8 2011: I'd say smile. A simple smile moves from you, to another, to another in an endless chain.
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    Mati D

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    Aug 7 2011: Jennifer, what a great question you asked, that everyone can relate to. What I’m going to suggest won’t take even 15 minutes a day and doesn’t cost any money, but can be done all the time through everything you’re doing.

    To love people by being yourself with them is the cheapest way we can save the world – and probably the most potent too. People underestimate the power of their own innate feelings, passions, honesty from the heart. Not honesty from the ego, which feels bad, but being really very honest about the things you love about people, about your natural feelings of desire and love and appreciation of people, about your natural feelings of unrest towards the things that are wrong with your life, and the lives of those you love. All that is true heart expression.

    If you give your heart to people in these ways, as yourself, you’ll be amazed at how much of a difference it makes to the people around you, the world around you. People tend to belittle this, belittle the power of their own heart, feelings, consciousness, and sensibilities. But there’s so much goodness there, in us. We are sweet inside, we are potent, we are beautiful and everyone loves to see a real heart showing, honestly. It’s a relief! Even if the content isn’t always pretty itself – like being upset about things in the world. But being honest bridges people together – then people can resonate with one another and find solutions together, or at least find comfort in honesty. And that resurrects people’s faith in humanity – just by seeing you as you truly are, instead of some politically correct idea of who you think you should be. You’re already amazing. So, show that!
    • Aug 9 2011: Mati,

      Thank you for your comment! Being true to yourself and authentic with others is not always the easiest thing to do all the time. It truly takes courage, understanding, and love. Above all, it starts with self-awareness and feeling your own feelings.

      As to how we can give back to our community, it's useful to start with gratitude. Always be thankful... even for the mistakes, challenges, or ''rough times'' in our lives. They are 'gifts' and opportunities to help us grow as human beings.

      When someone is truly grateful all the time, his thoughts, words and actions will reflect that. When there's gratitude, humility, and love within, giving back becomes natural overtime. For example, somethings as simple as a beautiful smile coming from the heart can be done quite easily each day!
  • Aug 7 2011: You can spend your time in TED conversation to reach global communities. I am reading you from Afghanistan.
  • Aug 4 2011: Hi, how about by being a good listener to anybody you're with or communicate with your community, for 15 mins/day.
  • Aug 4 2011: Good for you!

    I found volunteering for a local "meals-on-wheels" a perfect fit because I could include my kids. Delivering meals once a week to house bound people in our community was a great opportunity to fill a basic need, but it became so much more - we made friends. At first my kids came along for the ride, then they would ask to carry the meals, and then they began adding things to the delivery - drawings, or some kind of special treat. and before we knew it drop-offs became visits that both my children and many seniors looked forward to.
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    Aug 3 2011: Jennifer - your question kind of results in long-distance-coaching without knowing too much about your community. Can this really be of help? I will try despite my scepticism because I honour your self-discipline.

    First you need an activity that fit the real needs of others - giving back is not a disguised giving yourself.. To find these needs of others in your community set up a blog where your neighboors can post what you can do for them in 15 min. - your neighboors shall only post 15 min. "needs".
    Second the neighboor has one duty in return for your help: he / she must write or film or foto the activity and post it as well.
    It will take 3 months and you have a network of voluntary helpers - and a website with real needs and real solutions everybody can be inspired from.
    And in the end - it will be good for the director of marketing as well. Good luck !
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      Aug 4 2011: It sounds like you're brewing a new biz over there. Fun concept. Thanks! Jen
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    Aug 3 2011: By far, spreading optimism and positivity to everyone.
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    Aug 3 2011: There is a person who has changed millions of life with no investment at all
    I guess you might have heard about him--


  • Aug 3 2011: i would suggest you to give full attention to your kids. Being a mother it is the utmost responsibility for you to feed your kids good, to tech them to be good human being, teach them to respect, care and understand. Mother is the first institution for a kid and it affect his/ her whole life. When they grew good human this is your greatest gift to not only to community but the whole world. so my suggestion would be to give full attention to your family. Peace.
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      Aug 4 2011: I agree that it's my most important role, but I also want them to see me giving back to the community. I feel like being a great mom is also about showing them how I take care of myself and the world around me. Thanks for the feedback!
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    Aug 3 2011: Meditation
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    Aug 3 2011: Jennifer, I applaud your desire to contribute and would suggest that you meditate for the 15 minutes. Learn to discipline your mind, develop the capacity to see things from different perspectives and deepen your compassion. Then you discover ways you can realistically have a long term positive impact on your community. In my experience, the most effective interventions are those that arise from recognizing a need and realizing that one has the resources to respond to it. Meditation prepares your mind/brain to do that.
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    Aug 14 2011: Spend that time with your children and their friends, volunteer at their school. Find a suitable talk or article for discussion groups in their school. The key would be to consistently give that time to them. Maybe in the form of a course for kids on listening,compassion or co operation?
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    Aug 13 2011: Take your kids to visit a nursing home. Just sit and talk with someone for 15 minutes. not only will it make a difference in someone's life but will make a difference in your children's lives as well.

    We used to go with my mother once a month with a plate of cookies and sit and talk to whom ever needed to.
    All my brothers and I now volunteer doing something in the community.
    My oldest brother volunteers at his church, my twin brother fosters children and volunteers with his motorcycle club in the community, I volunteer as a leader in a mother’s of preschoolers support group, one of my younger brothers feeds/talks to people on skid row in LA and teachers a “How to stay married” class, and my youngest brother teaches kids music who don’t have the money for lessons.

    So if you get kids used to stepping out of their comfort zone and volunteer now, they may just end up impacting the community in ways you never imagined and could never do yourself.
  • Aug 13 2011: Random acts of kindness.

    ...It's contagious :)
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    Aug 6 2011: Install a blackboard along the street next to your house & write a quote each day.

    Yeah it may cost you something but one time & that not so much.
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    Aug 4 2011: Jennifer, you being a mother and with a full time job at that is already making a great impact! It sounds boring but our children is truly our future. Either we raise them to contribute positively in this world or not. This is one way of looking at our problems today, that the people that we see as "causing" problems came from our homes.

    I would suggest mothers to be less burdened with economic worries. Motherhood is one of the most important job (if not the most crucial) in the world. It's not even a job. It's LOVE.