10 ways to make a difference to one person

Today is national Make a Difference Day, and we are here to help you celebrate! The holiday, which has been around for over 20 years now, is the biggest day of community service in the US and was created all for the amazing goal of making our world a better place. If you are able to, you should definitely get out and volunteer for whatever causes you’re passionate about today —but just in case you can’t, we’ve got your back. With or without a ton of time to spare, there are still a bunch of things you can do to make a difference in someone’s day. Here are just a few easy suggestions for today and always!

Give a compliment

You know how amazing it felt when that really awesome stranger told you they loved your shoes/hair/glasses and you were basically walking on sunshine for the rest of forever from the unexpected niceness that the world just delivered to you? Well, you can be that really awesome stranger to someone! Don’t be creepy and definitely don’t be a cat-caller (because no, cat-calling is NOT the same thing as a compliment), but do give someone an unexpected compliment, because that can totally make someone’s day instantaneously. I am an awkward weirdo who worries I can’t pull off the casual compliment, but honestly, it feels almost as good giving one as it does receiving. Give it a try.

Donate food by practicing your vocabulary (for free!)

In case you haven’t heard of freerice.com, it’s pretty darn amazing. It’s a simple concept: correctly identify the synonym/definition of the word in question and the site will donate 10 grains of rice via the United Nations World Food Program. Obviously that doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you play it enough you really start racking up the rice pretty quickly. I used to use it to help practice for the SATs (really, though)! The beginning questions are easiest, and then the “game” gradually adjusts to your vocab level. It’s an excellent time waster for a great cause.

Make inspirational “posters” and leave them on community boards

A free and super easy craft: write or print out motivational quotes/inspirational anything on some paper and tack it up at work, school, or anywhere they have those community announcement cork boards in your neighborhood. It’s like giving away free smiles! Get creative with it. Who knows, it could be the extra boost someone really needed to see.

Pay for the person behind you in line

Apparently this is a real thing that happens in real life, where strangers buy other strangers things with no ulterior motives, including everything from coffee to gas to some very expensive goods. Obviously, we can’t all afford the big stuff, but why not give this a try the next time you go through a drive-thru? If you can afford it, buying a stranger their lunch might just make their day and restore their belief in random acts of kindness and/or the good of humanity (no big deal). Hopefully they’ll become more inclined to pass on the gesture, as well.

Download some apps that bring your favorite charities into your daily life

If you feel like you don’t have enough time to volunteer but still want to help, there’s an app for that. It’s no secret that most non-profits take monetary donations, but you can actually get money to them without spending a dime (that being said, if you can afford to, by all means, please donate on your own!). Charity Miles donates to your cause of choice as you exercise ($0.10/mile for bikers and $0.25/mile for walkers/runners), which is a huge motivation to get up and move. And for those less into running (aka me), there’s Donate A Photo, where Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 for every photo uploaded (and the photos will never be used for commercial use). Pretty cool stuff.

Bring extra food to work/school/life

Everyone loves the person who brings in baked goods, but the reason they love that person (aside from the obvious) is in part because they make a normal day more exciting. Those cookies you brought in could actually be the best part of someone’s day. Really. All too often we get sucked into the lull of daily mediocrity, but a pleasant surprise (in the form of food) can help give everyone a break and something to look forward to (aka devouring said food).

Donate the stuff you don’t want anymore

This should be an obvious thing that you’re doing anyway, but the next time you declutter your life, consider donating everything you’re getting rid of that’s still in good shape. Where you choose to give is up to you (there are tons of different secondhand shops that support an array of causes), but it’s such an easy thing to do and so much better than throwing everything away in the trash.

Bring a treat to someone who you know is sad/stressed/generally not feeling great

Empathy is a beautiful thing, but so is a special delivery of your favorite candy when all you want to do is ugly-cry endlessly. This doesn’t even need to be something you spend extra money on: offer your favorite book on loan, or your Netflix password, or make them a goofy card. Lend an ear or shoulder if they need it, but ultimately it’s the little things that mean the most sometimes. A small, tangible gesture just shows you were thinking of them (and that you acknowledge their feels).

Open up your couch

Stay with me here, but couchsurfing genuinely and non-sarcastically helped me believe that people can be incredibly kind, selfless, and good to strangers without wanting any monetary return. That is a lofty claim, I know, but I stand behind it. If you and your roommates are open to it, offering up your couch and just a bit of your time is such an amazing way to help a traveler out and make new friends. The guests are always super grateful, you’ll have tons of stories to share with one another, and it’ll help you fall in love with your hometown again. Make sure to use couchsurfing.org if you decide to offer up your living room —it’s the most legitimate site out there, and it offers verified info and “reviews” about a ton of surfers!


OK, I know I said I’d be offering up alternatives, but there are SO many ways to give your time nowadays that even if you have to plan super far in advance, you should try to volunteer. Whether that means walking dogs at your local shelter, planting trees, cleaning up beaches, or whatever else tickles your fancy, you can really, truly make a difference in the world. What you’re doing may feel small and insignificant, but I promise you, it’s not. The fact that we can change the world in some way is a pretty incredible thing. So let’s do it.

Images via, Giphy

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