"If you cannot feed a hundred people, then feed just one."
National Make a Difference Day, the largest single day of community service in the U.S., is this Saturday, October 27. The day is a consortium of groups, celebrities, public leaders, and ordinary people who support, promote, and help organize service projects to help their communities. They offer a step-by-step approach to bridge your service with millions of others around the country including registering your project, enlisting help, and sharing your project photos and updates.
When it comes to service on a more daily basis, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the needs we see around us and become discouraged that our efforts will change little. This mentality can result in us doing nothing at all. While October 27th is an opportunity to join many others in casting aside the excuses that we are too busy, discouraged, or don't know where to start, making a difference doesn't have to begin and end on one special day, nor does it need to be an elaborate project. Big changes can begin from what may seem like small efforts.
Here are some ideas on how to make a big difference for others by making small changes in your everyday life:
Open an extra savings account to donate to a charity at the end of each month. If you budget a reasonable amount and set up a direct deposit to automatically take a small percentage out of each paycheck, you'll hardly even notice. Even just 70 cents per day can add up to a generous gift of $260 in one year.
Purchase one extra canned good or nonperishable food item when you go grocery shopping to donate to a soup kitchen or local pantry. Setting aside a small box or area for these items in your home will be a visual reminder of how much you have and how much you're able to share with those in need.
Once a month, pick at least one piece of clothing or household good to donate to a thrift shop or a shelter. This could be anything from shoes or a scarf you haven't worn in months to board games and books you've already read.
Throw a brunch or dinner in your home and ask friends to make a small donation to go towards a worthy cause. Your friends will be happy to exchange a couple dollars for your company and a home cooked meal. Plus, it could be a fun way for you to share the work of great organizations with others who may not have known about them before.
The goal here is not to solve all the problems of the world in one day, but rather to take advantage of realistic and convenient opportunities to serve others in equally meaningful ways. Service must start with a servant's heart. In giving some of your time, talent, or treasure in regular, humble, and practical ways, before you know it, you'll have made a huge difference beyond a day.
Erin Van de Voorde
Currently a project manager in Washington, D.C., Erin grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin where she learned many life lessons. On the weekends, she and her Marine husband can be found hiking, shooting at the range, or indulging in a little whiskey or wine tasting.