I was 13 years old and there was nothing to eat. Not “nothing” the way teenagers complain when you’re out of Haagen-Dazs. There was literally NOTHING in the fridge but a stick of butter.

I was humiliated by our poverty and there was nothing I could do about it.

The church gave us leftover vending machine food, stale ham and cheese croissants and bagels, and the ladies at the pizzeria across the street let my mother take home the unsold slices at the end of the night.

I still remember the moments that made a difference when we were hurting.

Our school was going on a field trip to an apple orchard and cider mill. My brother and I didn’t turn in our permission slips because we couldn’t afford the $20, but we were too ashamed to explain why. When one of the school monitors pressed me for a reason, I finally admitted the truth.

She went to our teacher and paid our way so that we could go on the field trip.

Those little kindnesses gave me hope: cold pizza, vending machine leftovers, field trip money. They told me that even though things were tough, I was going to be okay because there were people who cared about me.

This isn’t my favorite life story to share, but I’m telling you because you CAN make a difference, too.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the poverty and pain in the world. What power do you really have to do anything? What difference can you make, all by yourself?

It reminds me of the story about the starfish on the beach.

A man was walking down the beach when he noticed that thousands of starfish had washed up on shore, as far as he could see. A little girl was carrying them back to the water, one at a time.

“What are you doing?” the man asked.

“I’m saving them,” the little girl said.

“There must be thousands of starfish, tens of thousands,” the man said. “You can’t possibly save them all, even if you worked all day and night. It won’t make a difference.”

The little girl gently picked up another starfish and placed it back in the ocean. “It makes a difference to the starfish,” she said.

You can make a difference. Right now. In your own backyard.

Open your eyes and notice the people around you in need and HELP THEM. Don’t just watch the news and feel bad. Do something.

What You Can Do to Make a Difference Right Now

An unexpected opportunity to make a difference crossed my path a few weeks ago. I was visiting the Facebook page of my former assistant, Brea, (you might remember her cheery email responses) and saw a post that broke my heart.

Her two year old son, Calvin, is suffering from Aplastic Anemia, a rare condition that occurs when your body stops producing enough new blood cells, causing fatigue, a high risk of infection and uncontrolled bleeding.

One minute their family was planning for the arrival of their new baby boy…the next they were spending 10 hour days in the hospital for blood transfusions, quarantined to protect Calvin’s weakened immune system.

Brea can’t work. She and her husband are taking care of Calvin and his little brother, Henry, and the medical bills are mounting.

If you’re as moved as I am by this story, take this opportunity to help Calvin in his fight against Aplastic Anemia by making a donation.

It doesn’t take a lot to give someone hope.

And if this particular situation doesn’t move you, for Pete’s sake, do something. I promise, you won’t have to look far.

Find someone in need and give just a little of your time, attention or money. Show them that the world is indeed a beautiful place.

You make a difference in the world every day, just by being a part of it.

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