Let's get the smug bit out of the way. I just volunteered at Independent Age UK. Hopefully I will soon be allocated an old person to visit. I realise that just by telling you, I've sullied the whole act.
You can imagine how I felt when I had to text a couple of friends asking them to be my references. 'Hi, I'm doing something really great and I just need you to back up how great I am so I can do the great thing'.
Telling people I'm doing something good makes me feel wholly uncomfortable. It removes the altruism. Suddenly I'm one of the Dancing Missionaries. If you haven't seen the video posted by a group of white girls dressed in Gomesi, a traditional dress of the Baganda tribe of Uganda, dancing to 'share the joy' you experience 'serving overseas on the mission field' then do not Google it. They need no more eyeballs.
But while I don't think we should go around aggrandising the good things we're doing, it does seem that 2017 is asking us to do more good. In fact it's 2016's fault that I'm on the Internet banging on about volunteering.
This year got us to look up and see the world around us. It made me want to be a better person. But a different kind of better than I previously wanted to be.
2015 let us make New Year promises to 2016 that went along the lines of 'I will meditate for 5 minutes every day' and 'I will use my NutriBullet more'. Even after November 2015 showed us pure tragedy on the streets of Paris, we still ambled into 2016 armed with promises to eat more protein and cleanse our faces properly.
As J K Rowling said, 'We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.'
Yet now, we amble no more.
Today the protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline proved that your beliefs, your voice and your protests do matter and can create change.
Next year needs us to all to be a bit more like the Standing Rock protesters. It needs us to actualise our beliefs.
This year taught us that votes aren't enough. And I totally realise that volunteering to visit an old person isn't enough either. But it's a step.
It's a New Year's resolution that isn't just about me. Although really it is, research by Harvard School of Public Health suggests that people who volunteer spend 38 per cent less time in hospital, are healthier, potentially with lower weight, reduced cholesterol and more stamina. It's a win win.
So, think about what you can do in 2017. What really got you pissed in 2016? Join that protest. Donate your time. Stand up for those who can't. Be present. Be anything but passive. Feel smug, get shinier skin, fit into 2012's jeans all while making someone else feel good. Make your 2017 New Year's Resolution count. As J K Rowling said, 'We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.'
Here's some inspiration of where and how to channel your power:
- Find out how you can help refugees at refugee-action.org.uk
- Support a young LGBT person who is homeless or living in a hostile environment, akt.org.uk
- Help Women being failed by the criminal justice system at womeninprison.org.uk
- Have an old mobile phone? You can donate that instead of money and help support women or children escaping domestic violence, shpforcharity.co.uk
- Defend a woman's right to chose with Abortion Rights, the national pro-choice campaign, abortionrights.org.uk
- Learn about female genital mutilation from the Freedom Charity, which provides educational packs for schools, freedomcharity.org