I remember being four years old, sitting glued to the television on Sunday mornings, not watching cartoons, but utterly captivated by World Vision. I cried about the injustices in the world, and begged my mother to let me sponsor Maria, the girl with the large, sad eyes who was around my age.
My mom patiently tried to explain to me that we couldn’t afford to send her money. I couldn’t understand, since we seemed to live in luxury compared to Maria.
Having been raised in a middle-class community of about 800 people in rural Newfoundland, I had never seen a stark divide between the rich and the poor. We all seemed to be the same to my four-year-old eyes.
My heart broke for Maria, and all of the other children on the show. I vowed to myself that someday, I was going to help people like her.
Throughout my childhood, I told everyone that I wanted to change the world. Many didn’t take my seriously. They’d say, “One person can’t change anything.”
Still, I knew I wanted to make a positive difference by helping people, animals, and the environment.
I started volunteering in elementary school, and became a vegetarian at the age of 13.
People asked, “Why bother? You know, that cow isn’t going to come back to life because you aren’t going to eat it.” And they very often said, “It won’t make a difference.”
I tried to explain that every action counted, and that we all had to make small efforts or nothing would ever change.
As time went on, people around me began to criticize less, and many friends and family members decided to try some of the things I was advocating.
Each time I did something to make a positive impact, it left me wanting to do more.
You may think that you need to be a world leader or a billionaire in order to make a difference.
I always believed that being a good person is about the small things. It’s about how you treat other people, not how many people you have power over.
If you’d like to make the world a better place, but aren’t sure how to fit it into your busy life, these ideas may help:
Volunteering doesn’t have to consume all of your free time. You can volunteer as few hours as you would like! You can find an organization within your community, or you can even volunteer online, through websites that will allow you to help for even a few minutes at a time.
2. Donate blood.
This can be one of the most satisfying ways to make a difference. You can literally save a life with just an hour of your time.
3. Donate used clothing.
There are so many places and ways you can donate your used clothing. Some organizations even offer pick up services, Donate them to a homeless shelter, or an organization that sells them to raise funds.
4. Foster an animal.
This can be such a rewarding experience. If you’re able to part with the foster animals, they leave a hole in your heart, but fostering your next pet helps fill it, and you will be making a difference in the lives of so many animals in need.
5. Spread the word about various causes in your community.
See an interesting fundraiser that an organization is hosting? Share it on Facebook! See an animal that’s up for adoption? Share it. There are so many ways you can help an organization with just the click of a mouse.
6. Donate something you made to an organization that can use it.
I make jewelry, hats, scarves, and other crafty things in my free time. I’ve donated many hats and scarves to homeless shelters, and donate jewelry to a cat rescue organization for them to sell or auction to raise funds. You have talents—use them!
7. Join a bone marrow registry.
It’s incredibly easy to sign up to donate bone marrow, and you never know when you could save a life.
8. Spread some kindness.
Small acts of kindness can go a long way in making the world a better place. Think about a time when someone did something unexpected for you that brightened your day. Weren’t you a nicer person for the rest of the day because of that?
I’m willing to bet that anyone who receives an act of kindness passes it on in some way, even if it’s just by being in a better mood, and therefore treating the people around them with more kindness than usual.
Send someone a kind message. Give a small gift. Make something for someone. Tell someone how much they mean to you. There are so many ways to brighten someone’s day.
9. Change your diet.
Many people will argue with the validity of this strategy to improve the world; however, what you buy reflects what you value.
If you don’t want to become a vegetarian, try having one meat-free day per week. If you don’t want to reduce your meat consumption, how about buying some free range meat or eggs? Or, buy organic food products. There are many ways you can change your diet to reflect your values.
10. Make your purchases support your values.
Every purchase you make supports something. You can either support a large business that exploits people, animals, and the environment, or you can buy items that are local, organic, or fair-trade. It’s hard to change this all at once, especially if you’re used to shopping for bargains, but try changing just a few of your purchases to make them better reflect the things you value.
These are just a handful of the thousands of ways you can make the world a better place! Just remember that every single thing you do makes a difference. Don’t ever let anyone—yourself included—discourage you from trying to be a better person and help others.