In a society tense over ongoing uncertainty and downright appalling policies and protocol, it’s easy to get swept up in the negative. Sometimes it feels as though, if you have a heart, being in a regular state of outrage is an obligation. But in reality, there is so much to be thankful for, especially when realizing that our community is full of good people giving back with only the hope of making hard times easier.

When the request for local heroes’ nominations was made over the last month, it seemed obvious that many people who helped during the Thomas Fire would be nominated. When the names came in, only a few were associated with the fire. What we got instead were dozens of people doing all sorts of volunteer work year round. Our heroes this year, however, aren’t just people who have a heart for others, but some who have experienced the trauma of not having resources available or not having others who could truly understand their tough experiences and who therefore decided that they would share their vulnerabilities to help others. And it is this arena of understanding and compassion that paves the way to a more honest and connected community.

While it is easy to see what’s wrong with our society, our communities, etc., it seems conversely difficult to get past that and to focus on the good things, especially when it comes to going out of our way to do something that benefits others without expecting anything in return. It is via the vehicle of unconditional love that we can start to set aside our assumptions and expectations and direct our energy to truly good things; and it can start with shouldering a burden. For instance, picking up litter is a decent thing to do. Or helping someone who is struggling with carrying groceries or needs help opening a door. Or offering water to a neighbor who is working hard in the yard. Finding opportunities to do good things rarely happens while streaming Netflix or getting into heated debates on social media about how things should be. It happens when we disconnect from virtual reality and tap into physical reality intentionally, seeking ways that we can help one another.

If you don’t know where to start, the Ventura County Community Foundation and the United Way of Ventura County are tied to numerous nonprofits looking for volunteers to chip in their time and energy. If organized volunteer work feels off-putting, just apply the Golden Rule and be conscientious about the world around you. Even a friendly hello or a respectable chat with a stranger could help in monumental ways. Spreading good cheer shouldn’t be reserved just for the holidays.

Be a local hero every day by being mindful of the people around you, and understand that you play a role in the common good, which is the notion that we are all in this together. If everyone did a little bit toward that thinking, how much better would our community, state, world be?