With all the storm and stress of our 24/7 news chatter, sometimes it’s difficult to make sense of it all or know what to do with our lives.

Consider the word “success” — the great American Holy Grail. Given some of the outsized egos and low-cunning scofflaws that seem to dominate the news cycle, it’s fairly clear being famous — or being famous for being famous — is not a genuine marker of “success.”

We prefer Ralph Waldo Emerson’s definition of the word: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived — this is to have succeeded.”

We’ve said it before, especially around the holidays: Queen Anne, Magnolia and the rest of the city are replete with opportunities to help another life breathe a little easier. All of the below organizations are in need of donations — dollars, materials, food stuffs — but beyond those material needs, they also need the gift of something just as precious: people’s time.

The Queen Anne Helpline’s website (www.QueenAnneHelpline.org) features a volunteer application and a menu of volunteer opportunities ranging from its clothing bank, Fun Run and gala auction, to the Helpline Christmas tree lot and Santa’s party for kids. 

The Queen Anne Food Bank at Sacred Heart (www.QAFB.org) is always in need of clothing and canned-food goods, but it, too, has a continuing need for helping hands.

Likewise with the Ballard Food Bank (www.BallardFoodBank.org), which serves some 1,400 Ballard, Magnolia and Queen Anne households. Its volunteer needs range from food recovery to set up to the sorting of donations.

The Sacred Hearth Shelter, a temporary refuge for families and single women, is run by Catholic Community Services, the single-largest social-service provider in this state after the state itself. You don’t need to be Catholic or Christian for your volunteer efforts to find a welcoming place here. Search “Sacred Heart Shelter, Queen Anne” on-line for more information.

Local retirement communities also have continuous volunteer opportunities. Bayview Manor, for instance, offers opportunities for reading to their residents, helping with the outdoor gardens or involvement with their arts and music programs.

Additionally, our chambers of commerce, service clubs and community groups all welcome volunteer help.

Seattle Children’s Hospital (www.SeattleChildrens.org), which started out on Queen Anne, features an array of volunteer roles, including spending time with children who are ill. That role, personified by the late Phil Smart, is not for everyone; it can be emotionally challenging, but the challenges also bring out the best in human nature.

The next time we ask ourselves, what can I do, it’s good to know there are actionable answers close at hand. If we can’t change the world, at least we have the chance to change a world.