Jesus didn’t just talk about making a difference. He went out every day and actually made a difference, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and helping people make choices that bettered their lives. He set the example for us to follow.
Some teens notice how many problems there are in the world and get discouraged. They don’t think their little contribution can make a difference that matters. There is a story of a man who saw an elderly man picking up starfish from the beach and tossing them back into the water. Left on the sand, they die. The younger man said, “There are thousands of starfish stranded on the beach. You can’t help enough to make a difference.” The man picked up another starfish and tossed it back into the water. Quietly he said, “I made a difference to that one.”
Gordon B. Hinckley taught that even though our personal contributions might be small, they could be gathered up with the contributions of all the other people who help out and then they’re big enough to matter (See Gordon B. Hinckley, “I Believe,” Ensign, Aug 1992, 2)
So what can you do that might be small but will matter to one person, or that could matter to thousands if you either started something big or joined a program already in progress?
If you’ve never done community service, start by thinking about the things you’re passionate about. Your service will be more successful if it’s something you personally care a lot about. Does it break your heart to see a hungry child? Volunteer at a food bank. Do you care about people learning to read? Go to your local literacy program and offer to teach someone to read. Does it make you mad to see trash in the meadow near your home? Pick it up.
Your project doesn’t have to involve millions of people or get covered by the news. Every small thing you do, from helping the first grader next door learn math to joining a giant walk-a-thon will make a difference in the long run.
Get your friends involved to make it more fun. Can you start a club at school or church to get others interested in what you care about and to put together larger projects? Instead of hanging out one Saturday or going to a movie, what if you and your friends decided to go to all the people you know and collect donations of children’s books to a shelter? What if you went and tidied up a historical cemetery no one else seemed to care about? What if you just wrote letters to political leaders about an issue that mattered to you?
Start small and then, as you discover what you love doing, build more time for service into your life. It helps you get into college, so it has a practical purpose, but that isn’t the best reason to do it.
As you start to follow the example of the Savior, Jesus Christ, you’ll find yourself feeling more peaceful and satisfied. Your self-esteem will improve and you’ll feel like an important part of your world. You live in the world and enjoy all its blessings. God gave you all the good things you have. The best way to thank Him is by doing something for someone else.
Make a difference.