Make a Difference Day—an unofficial holiday since 1992 that encourages community engagement—is happening on Saturday, October 26th. It’s the perfect opportunity to make time to give back before the whirlwind of the holidays sets in. But how can you take this big idea and make it doable?
I’ve got five easy and meaningful ideas for you. (I also appeared on my local news to talk about this—you can watch that clip here, and be sure to watch for the blooper that happened twice!)
- Find a volunteer opportunity. The original inspiration for Make a Difference Day was to get out into the community and help out an organization. Find a volunteer event near you using a website such as volunteermatch.org or idealist.org. Or, my favorite, go to Facebook Events and look for something happening on Saturday—I’ll just bet there’s a perfect opportunity just waiting for you (if there’s not one on your calendar already, in which case, good on ya!)
- Upgrade your Halloween treats. Most people don’t realize that a lot of Halloween candy is made from chocolate that relies on child labor. In fact, a report from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture found that there almost 300,000 children working on the farms that grow cocoa beans, often as indentured servants and in dangerous conditions. It’s a terrible irony that the candy we buy to delight children in America endangers children in other parts of the world.There are brands that use cocoa beans that were grown responsibly, including Aldi’s, Newman’s Own Organics, and Equal Exchange. When in doubt, look for the symbol on the package that says the chocolate is Fair Trade certified. And you can always give temporary tattoos, plastic vampire fangs, or severed fingers (I’ve seen all these at the dollar store recently!) instead of candy—a nice nod to the 1 in 13 kids who have a food allergy and can’t partake in the candy part of trick or treating anyway.
- Start a compost bin. Composting food scraps instead of throwing them away keeps almost a half-pound of trash out of the landfill, according to the EPA. And that’s per person, per day. That means a family of four who starts composting now will have diverted over 700 pounds of trash by next Make a Difference Day! Fall is also the perfect time to start composting because the leaves that you’d otherwise bag up are the perfect thing to use in your compost bin (use equal parts leaves and food waste to keep an ideal mix for breaking down food). Just go down to your local home or hardware store and get a bin to get started. This is the one I’m doing for Make a Difference Day!
- Look people in the eye. Something simple you can do on Make a Difference Day, and every day, is to make it a point to look people in the eye. Making eye contact is a tiny little thing that has a huge impact. You won’t always have time to volunteer or money to give, but you always have your attention and you can offer that to others. For more of a pep talk on how powerful it is to make eye contact, even when it feels awkward, be sure to tune in to the How to Be a Better Person podcast on Saturday morning!
- Set an end-of-decade goal. It’s hard to believe it, but there are only two months left in this decade. Let the impending calendar change inspire you to set a goal that will help you make a difference in an area that matters to you. For example, decide to help register 10 new voters, or make 50 phone calls for a candidate or a cause you believe in, or vow to pick up 25 pounds of trash.Big milestones are great for creating a sense of urgency for setting new goals. The end of a decade is kind of like New Year’s Eve on steroids. Use it as an opportunity to ask yourself what you can accomplish that will make a difference now, and also start a new habit that can carry you through the 2020s. You don’t have to achieve the goal on Make a Difference Day, but it’s the perfect occasion to take the time to decide what your target will be.
A lot of us have the impulse to do something to help others, but we also have a lot on our plates, so it’s easy for that impulse to be overlooked. Making a national holiday dedicated to making a difference is the perfect reminder to make that good intention a reality.
Choosing one—or more—of these five ideas will help you transform that desire to give back into something real that makes a tangible difference.