Volunteering -- whether it's in a local soup kitchen, or tutoring kids in an after-school program, or cleaning cages at the local animal shelter -- sure sounds like something that's good for the soul. And that's why it's a bit disheartening to discover that most of us don't do it. According to a 2012 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 26.8 percent of Americans had volunteered through or for a local organization at least once in the previous year [source: Bureau of Labor Statistics].
While lack of community involvement is probably part of the cause, in fairness, one reason more people don't pitch in probably is that they don't have much free time. Americans typically put in an additional seven hours per week -- nearly a full day of work -- answering e-mail and calls from their employers and doing other uncompensated work in what is supposed to be their free time [source: Perez].
But even if a highly trained professional can squeeze in some time to help, he or she may feel performing menial labor isn't really making a difference. Fast Company, a business publication, and other organizations have come up with an ingenious solution that actually may help more. They've created an online clearinghouse, Catchafire.org, which matches people with charities who can use their skills, whether it's accounting, marketing or Web design [source: Chong].
And if you aren't comfortable with that much structure or time commitment, Huffington Post blogger Kari Henley suggests another answer: ad hoc, spur-of-the-moment activism. Deliver a dinner to a friend or neighbor in need. Offer to baby-sit a new mom's kids for an afternoon. Send an unexpected card of encouragement to someone [source: Henley]. Helping one person at a time is a good entry-level way to become a humanitarian, and you still get that warm and fuzzy payoff.
Author's Note: 10 New Year's Resolutions You Might Actually Keep
It was interesting to research and write this assignment, because I'm one of those people who makes a long list of detailed resolutions each year and then promptly misplaces it. This year, though, I think that I'm going to pare down my list, and break each item into less arduous steps, and then come up with deadlines that I can mark in my Google calendar and ToDoist, a Web site that I use to organize my work assignments. I've tried that approach with my exercise goals, and it seems to work pretty well.
- Action for Happiness. "Where to Start." Actionforhappiness.org. Undated. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.actionforhappiness.org/take-action/get-to-know-your-neighbours-better
- Adams, Susan. "How to Stop Procrastinating." Forbes.com. Dec. 16, 2010. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.forbes.com/2010/12/16/stop-procrastinating-efficiency-leadership-careers-organization.html
- American Psychological Association. "Forgiveness: A Sampling of Research Results." Apa.org. 2006. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.apa.org/international/resources/forgiveness.pdf
- Blankenhorn, Dana. "The College Revolution: Think Free." Thestreet.com. November 21, 2012. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.thestreet.com/story/11773133/1/the-college-revolution-think-free.html
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook: Waiters and Waitresses." Bls.gov. undated. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/waiters-and-waitresses.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Volunteering in the United States, 2011). Bls.gov. February 22, 2012. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.bls.gov/news.release/volun.nr0.htm
- Carson, Dr. Ben and Lewis, Gregg. "Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk." Zonderan. 2008. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://books.google.com/books?id=AWGCt-eu95EC&printsec=frontcover&dq=learning+how+to+take+risks&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UwDGUIWZKKmr0AGW64GIDg&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA
- Castleman, Capt. Elizabeth A. USMC. "Reclaiming Rapid Cognition." Docccrp.org. Undated. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.dodccrp.org/events/12th_ICCRTS/CD/html/presentations/206.pdf
- Chicago Institute. "The Story of Janus." The Presbyterian Banner. Dec. 30, 1909. (Dec. 8, 2012) http://books.google.com/books?id=W4dRAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA995&dq=romans+%22new+year%22+janus+promise&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WEvFUKPCMqHj0gGBi4CADQ&sqi=2&ved=0CDwQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=romans%20%22new%20year%22%20janus%20promise&f=false
- Chong, Rachel. "Making Volunteering More Popular By Making It More Relevant." Fastcoexist.com. Undated. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.fastcoexist.com/mba/1679074/making-volunteering-more-popular-by-making-it-more-relevant
- CNN Money. "How Much to Tip." Money.cnn.com. Undated. (Dec. 10, 2012). http://money.cnn.com/pf/features/lists/tipping/
- Cohen, Patricia. "A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond." New York Times. January 19, 2012. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/education/edlife/a-sharper-mind-middle-age-and-beyond.html
- Eisenstadt, Lisa. "New Year's Resolutions: How To Actually Keep Them." Huffington Post. Dec. 28, 2011. (Dec. 9, 2012) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/28/new-years-resolutions-keep_n_1173253.html
- Everett, Flic. "How to Trust Your Instincts." Daily Mail. January 30, 2012. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/fe-mail/article-2093515/How-trust-instincts-In-business-relationships-dilemmas-listen-inner-voice.html
- Gilbert, Elizabeth. "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia." Viking Penguin. 2006. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://books.google.com/books?id=EbquUB1D6B8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=gilbert+eat+pray+love&hl=en&sa=X&ei=z17GUNGGM9DI0AHmp4HQBA&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=travel&f=false
- Gladwell, Malcolm. "What is 'Blink' About?" Gladwell.com. Undated. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.gladwell.com/blink/index.html
- Hutchison, Courtney. "New Year's Resolutions That Survive the Test of Time." ABC News. Dec. 28, 2009. (Dec. 9, 2012) http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/years-resolutions-survive-test-time/story?id=9404149#.UMVIjoM0V8Ehttp://www2.fbi.gov/publications/leb/1996/oct964.txt
- Joshi, Mohit. "Bitterness and resentment can make you sick, German experts warn." TopNews.in. May 19, 2008. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.topnews.in/health/bitterness-and-resentment-can-make-you-sick-german-experts-warn-22605
- Klein, Sarah. "Too much TV may mean earlier death." CNN.com. January 11, 2010. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/01/11/television.tv.death/index.html
- Linden, Dr. Michael. "Posttraumatic Embitterment Disorder." Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. 2003. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=ShowAbstractBuch&ArtikelNr=70783&ProduktNr=229203
- Lynn, W. Michael. "MegaTips 2: Twenty Tested Techniques to Increase Your Tips." Cornell Hospitality Tools. March 2011. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://tippingresearch.com/uploads/CHRmegatips2.pdf
- Marist Poll. "12/29: Younger Americans Twice as Likely to Make New Year's Resolution than Older Residents." Maristpoll.marist.edu. Dec. 29, 2011. (Dec. 9, 2012) http://maristpoll.marist.edu/tag/new-years-resolutions/
- Martz, David. "Daily Life of the Ancient Romans." Greenwood Press. 2002. (Dec. 9, 2012) http://books.google.com/books?id=VFghxgwSdpwC&pg=PA129&dq=romans+%22new+year%22+janus+promise&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WEvFUKPCMqHj0gGBi4CADQ&sqi=2&ved=0CD8Q6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=
- Munsey, Christopher. "Frisky, But More Risky." Monitor on Psychology. July 2006. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug06/frisky.aspx
- Norcross, JC;Mrykalo, MS; and Blagys, MD. "Auld lang syne: success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year's resolvers and nonresolvers." Journal of Clinical Psychology. April 2002. (Dec. 9, 2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11920693
- Oprah.com. "How to Forgive Others." Oprah.com. Undated. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-to-Forgive-Others-Dr-Ned-Hallowell
- Pessiglione, Mathias, etal. "Subliminal Instrumental Conditioning Demonstrated in the Human Brain." Neuron. August 28, 2008. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2572733/
- Perez, Sarah. "Equaling An Extra Day of Work Per Week." Tech Crunch. July 2, 2012. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/02/80-of-americans-work-after-hours-equaling-an-extra-day-of-work-per-week/
- Putnam, Robert D. "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community" (synopsis of book). Bowlingalone.com. Undated. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://bowlingalone.com/
- Rice, Rachel. "Americans watching more TV, thanks to mobile devices, Internet." Chicago Sun-Times. June 15, 2011. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.suntimes.com/business/5979189-420/americans-watching-more-tv-thanks-to-mobile-devices-internet.html
- Sample, Ian. "New year's resolutions doomed to failure, say psychologists." The Guardian. Dec. 27, 2009. (Dec. 9, 2012) http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/dec/28/new-years-resolutions-doomed-failure
- ScienceDaily. "A Surprise Win or Loss Impacts Taking Future Risks." Sciencedaily.com. July 6, 2012. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120706184351.htm
- Smith, Aaron. "Neighbors Online." Pewresearch.org. June 9, 2010. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1620/neighbors-online-using-digital-tools-to-communicate-monitor-community-developments
- Tierney, John. "Be It Resolved." New York Times. January 5, 2012. (Dec. 9, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/sunday-review/new-years-resolutions-stick-when-willpower-is-reinforced.html?pagewanted=all
- U.S. Travel Association. "Travel Facts and Statistics." Ustravel.org. Undated. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.ustravel.org/news/press-kit/travel-facts-and-statistics
- Volunteerguide.org. "Volunteer Vacations." Volunteerguide.org. Undated. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.volunteerguide.org/vacation
- Wilson, T.D. and Schooler, J.W. "Thinking too much: introspection can reduce the quality of preferences and decisions." Journal of Personal and Social Psychology. February 1991. (Dec. 10, 2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2016668
April Fools' Day is falls on April 1 and is usually celebrated with various acts of foolishness. Learn about the history of April Fools' Day.