5 Ways to Make a Big Difference in Someone’s Day

Holding Hands

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” ~William James

There’s this saying I used to love that doesn’t resonate with me anymore:

“Go big or go home.”

I understand the allure of doing big things.

Life seems more meaningful when you’re pursuing a passion that could feasibly improve life for masses of people; and at the end of the day, most of us want to create a legacy—something that lives on beyond our own ripple-in-the-ocean life spans.

I’m not arguing the benefits of going big if that’s what you want to do, especially since I have a few big plans of my own. But there are a couple of implications here I would like to debunk:

If you’re playing small, you’re not playing smart.

Wrong. Determine what makes you happy and gives you a sense of purpose, and then live it, whether that means finding a cure for cancer or finding your son’s favorite toy for the fifteenth time in a day.

Play by your own rules, no one else’s.

If you’re not doing something big, you’re not making a difference.

Wrong. Revolutionaries like Ted Kennedy and titans like Ted Turner made massive contributions to the world, but our society also advances when parents raise well-adjusted children, and teachers inspire students to utilize their talents and overcome pressures.

Whether you have grand plans or not, I think it’s important to play small every day—even while keeping your eye on a larger goal. The little things make a huge difference, both for us and the people whose lives we touch.

Each of these small acts will make a meaningful difference in someone’s life, and hopefully fill you with joy and satisfaction:

1. Talk to an elderly person you meet waiting at the DMV or sitting on the bus.

Ask him about his life, his children, the job he had before retiring.

It’s an unfortunate fact that many elderly people are isolated from society, and sometimes their families, if they have them. They crave meaningful connections and opportunities to share their passions, memories, and wisdom.

You may be surprised by what you receive when you extend that gift. But most importantly, you’ll give something small but powerful to someone who’s already given the world so much.

2. Find a blog about a topic you enjoy—one that doesn’t have any comments—and get in on the conversation.

There are over 100 million blogs on the net, about every topic under the sun. Many of those bloggers couldn’t care less about advertising revenue or thought leadership. They just want to share their passions and hopefully connect with other people.

Your thoughtful comment could brighten their day and reinforce that people truly are listening.

3. Ask a homeless person if there’s someone you can call for them.

Lots of homeless people have become alienated from their families, particularly the younger ones. Maybe they’re too proud to ask for help or afraid their loved one won’t be receptive to their plea.

That pride or fear could be the biggest mistake of their life, and you could help them overcome it. If they’re not receptive or if they truly have no one to call, just lend an ear. Perhaps in telling his story he’ll find the strength to seek help.

4. Prove someone cynical wrong.

There are a lot of people out there who believe people are basically selfish, that no one does anything just to be helpful or kind. I think that’s the saddest way to be in this world, because we generally seek evidence for the beliefs we form—meaning it’s really difficult to reverse this perspective.

Do something completely selfless for that person. It may not change their philosophy but maybe it will challenge it. You never know when one simple kindness will soften the anger or pain someone’s holding.

5. Tweet: “Is there anything I can do to help or support you today?”

It’s a simple question, but I’ve found it can make a significant difference.

As a direct result of asking, I’ve edited a college senior’s resume, introduced someone to his next employer, and helped a new friend name a website he started just last month.

Sometimes the best way to make a difference is to open your heart and be a friend, whatever that means to the person who needs one.

The most meaningful acts are often the ones we commit without prompting or expectations.

We have such profound power when we lend an ear, a hand, or an act of kindness because it reminds the recipient that people are good. People do care. That’s what gives life meaning: the people who touch our lives and the people whose lives we touch.

I’d love to know what you think. Have anything to add to the list?

Photo by Christopher Michel

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • alexparr

    What a lovely post and I agree with you totally. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. There are actually a lot of kind people out there who do want to make a difference and it is really nice to meet a like-minded soul. I hope you have magical holidays and a glorious New Year.

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  • AWESM Post…. Loads of love

  • glennsakamoto

    What a great post. This definitely lifted my day! Thank you.

  • I've always enjoyed talking to someone older than me. They have been on the road of life longer and have seen/done more things. There is so much we can learn from past generations.

  • baker19

    Awesome post here!

  • 808lika

    Love this post! I've been asking my students #5 for a few years. Sometimes, I get funny or bizarre or wonderful answers. Sometimes, they just burst into tears. So simple. So powerful! Mahalo for posting, 808lika

  • I agree! I believe people are good and they want to help. Many people make a difference every day and don't give themselves enough credit. Thank you for the holiday wishes, and the same to you!

  • You're most welcome!

  • Absolutely! It's always heart-warming to see an older person reflect on their experiences. They have so much to share; in fact, I think they're our greatest resource for wisdom. I love that certain cultures promote a strong sense of respect for elders. I think everyone should.

  • Isn't funny how sometimes the simplest things are the most powerful? Thank you for reading and offering such kind feedback. Happy holidays!

  • Thank you! I'm glad it resonated with you.

  • Being a social media addict, I am thankful for the wonderful friends I have met online. These are the people that inspire me and their stories brighten my day. I am in no way ditching my real-life friends, but sometimes I connect better with people online because I am able to meet people with various background and they share the same dreams as you.

    Again, thank you for an inspring post.

  • I can totally relate. I've made tons of friends through Twitter, and I've met many of them in real life. It's a beautiful thing that we can meet diverse people from all over and broaden our horizons like never before.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this post!

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  • Tiny Buddha is nice place to be, and I love it

  • Awesome. Take off your shoes and stay awhile =)

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  • Vince

    Lori, wonderful thoughts. Thank you for sharing.

    The subject of this blog reminds me of the Mother Theresa quote: “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”

    Have a great New Year.

  • Vince

    Lori, wonderful thoughts. Thank you for sharing.

    The subject of this blog reminds me of the Mother Theresa quote: “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”

    Have a great New Year.

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  • My friend wrote a blog post about this awhile back. ( ) Every day, his grandfather imagines that 2 people are wearing a “make me feel special” sign around their neck. The little things can really make a difference!

  • Thanks for the link. What a wonderful idea! =)

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  • catherine tungol

    I’am so happy to have read all these wonderful, enriching and truly very inspiring insights based on your actual life experiences and innate passion for such kind of very special gift. I myself has always been an instrument of God’s goodness and I find real happiness in helping other people every time I’m given the opportunity to initiate and act to do good things for my fellowmen. Everyday I could feel that God wants me to continue this noble work to be able to do more meainingful acts, we must live through God’s love, compassion, and examples. Thank you very much for your heart-warming articles!

  • Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Catherine! How wonderful you’ve found happiness in helping others. I think that’s the beautiful thing about helping someone else; it always helps us in at least some small way, as well. =)

  • Elena

    Such a wonderful website! It makes me so happy. 🙂

  • Thanks Elena! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it. =)

  • Brittany Burke

    Reading these articles immediately make me feel good, and just want to spread more love! **Namaste

  • I’m glad you enjoyed it! =)

  • cherfer

    I don’t know about the homeless phone call thing. I’ve had homeless people scream at me when I tried to give them food.

  • Marawan Abbas

    i love the way you can mention to talk to old people or they talk to you???? lol

  • No

    So don’t have social anxiety, basically. Great, thanks.

  • Wads Daniel

    I have liked point No. 2, since I am also a writer. I really become very happy on getting my first comment.