Stutzman: Something new for 2014

It’s easy to think about giving this time of year. The biggest “giving” holiday is merely hours away. Most of us spend hours contemplating, brainstorming, selecting, and shopping for the perfect presents for the ones we love. We do it out of tradition, out of love, and for the pure joy in making others happy.

It feels good to give. Altruistic giving, the act of giving without expecting anything in return, is known to boost our psychological health. The same areas of the brain that register pleasure light up when we give gifts or donate to charity or do something nice for someone else.

And just like every year, most of us will be completely exhausted and not think about giving for as long as possible afterward. It’s like a marathon that keeps us in a frenzy until the last scrap of wrapping paper is vacuumed up from underneath the couch. It is also during this time that we are reminded not everyone has the opportunity to give gifts, or can experience the joy of receiving gifts. Hopefully, those of us that have the means will take the time to adopt a family to assist during the holidays.

Why let it stop now? Why do we feel extra generous with our giving only in December?

Let’s make a new proposal for 2014. My friend Leanne gave me this idea and I think it’s a great one to share across the community. Beginning now, let’s make every Wednesday, Pay-It-Forward Wednesday.

Instead of complaining that the week is only half over, or mumbling about the weather or stressing about responsibilities, let’s guarantee Wednesday has at least one bright spot on its to-do list. Each Wednesday take 5-10 minutes to do something nice for someone else without any expectation of anyone returning the favor. Here is a list of ideas to get you going:

* Shovel a neighbor’s sidewalk.

* Pay for the purchases of a person behind you in line at the gas station.

* Pick up the tab for someone in a restaurant.

* Help a stranger get their groceries out to their car.

* Bake some cookies for a stressed out co-worker.

* Lend a friend a great book you’ve recently read.

* Take someone you haven’t seen in a while out to lunch.

* Send a thank you note to your favorite local business.

* Surprise your spouse by cleaning the house or making breakfast in bed.

* Put the electronics away and go for a walk with someone you care about.

There you have it. Ten ideas to get you started. Beginning in January I’ll be reminding everyone via the Inspiring A-Town Facebook page to pay it forward each Wednesday. Let’s spread cheer and happiness all throughout next year. We’ll feel better about ourselves, brighten each other’s days, and create a community centered around the generosity of doing good deeds.

Mary Beth Stutzman’s Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.