The start of school brings new routines. As children get older, they establish more independence and require less daily oversight and family involvement. Perhaps this year is one of those milestone years in your household that results in more time for you to spend on other things. Before you start planting petunias with your extra time, think about taking advantage of opportunities to serve your community.

Philanthropy is defined as the love of mankind, or the desire to promote the welfare of others. Philanthropy is often seen as giving your time, talents, or treasures for the benefit of someone else. If your routine has changed this fall, you may be left with more time, talent, or treasure that is available to be put to productive use. If the change in your routine this fall is the result of your last child leaving home for college, perhaps a recent tuition bill is leaving you lacking in the “treasure” department, but you still have your time and talent to devote to a worthwhile cause. If you are still uncertain that you have any talent to devote to a cause, then just keep it simple and focus on your time. There are dozens of local charities that need very simple tasks performed daily, such as sorting donations at the food bank or local thrift stores or delivering food or other items to seniors or those who are homebound. For those who can tap into more of their talent, there are opportunities to teach language, literacy, computer skills, interview skills, counsel 

If you are feeling a little lonely, out of place, or even depressed because your child has started school or left home for school, there is good news for you if you can turn your attention to others by volunteering. Psychology Today published an article in 2018 titled “In Helping Others, You Help Yourself.” The article states, “…the well-being-boosting and depression-lowering benefits of volunteering have been repeatedly documented. As has the sense of meaning and purpose that often accompanies altruistic behavior.” In other words, everybody knows that turning your attention to helping others takes the focus off your personal situation. So don’t dwell on yourself, find a way to serve others. The same article also noted a Columbia University study “revealed that when helping others navigate their stressful situations, we are enhancing our own emotional regulation skills, and thus, benefitting our own emotional well-being.” When you take the time to help someone handle their challenges, such as learning to read, experiencing grief, learning new computer skills, receiving assistance with food or shelter, you inadvertently help yourself cope with your own situation and improve your own mood and happiness.      Changes in our daily routine are not always the result of changes in our children’s lives. A job change, retirement, relocation or loss of a spouse can create a void or disruption of our routine that can start a person on an emotional spiral. When that happens, it is up to us to determine if we want to use the opportunity to spiral up or down. Volunteering can be a great opportunity.  electric bills are inconvenient, but for others, their fear of not being able to afford a high electric bill causes them to keep the air conditioning off, even when it is dangerous for their health. Considering a gift to one of the local charities supporting our neighbors in the dog days of summer may be your next best opportunity to Give Well.