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In his novel, "The Lamb's War," Dutch author Jan de Hartog wrote: "Do not commit the error, common among the young, of assuming that if you cannot save the whole of mankind you have failed."
Small actions can and do have big benefits, and all of us, no matter our skills and abilities, can make a difference. As individuals, it is the small things we do that can matter most. But, the sum of our actions, if done for the common good, is almost always greater than its parts. If this is true of individuals, imagine how it applies when we get together as a group to help others. Most adults see the value of volunteering, but only one in six will do so without being asked. So, choose to make a difference and invite others to join you in a project.
Identify a need, then gather others to help you fill it. Families are struggling in this economy, so maybe you can collect toys and clothing to donate to those in need. Many people are out of work, so perhaps you could collect professional clothes to donate to a local job placement program or volunteer to help with mock interviews. Libraries provide valuable services to the community, but many are struggling in the current economy, so maybe you could collect books, money and other resources they can use.
Your efforts and time can be just as valuable as your money and possessions. Offer your skills to help build or repair a neighbor's house or garage. Build shelves for your local food bank and offer to help fill them. Plant trees and bushes in your neighborhood. Clean-up, paint or build a playground, or simply pick up trash from an area park, creek or walking trail. Or, offer to rake your neighbor's yard and clean their gutters when you do yours.
You also can benefit others by sharing your passions online. Do you have special knowledge or insights on a hobby or profession that you can share on an online message board or social networking site? You may have the answer that someone else is looking for.
It doesn't take much to make a big difference, and small acts build on each other. Robert F. Kennedy said: "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope... and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
What will you do to make a difference?