Did you grow up with a desire to make a difference in the world? Many of us did. But it feels like such a monumental task, like where to even start? I’m just one human. If you’re in a position of privilege, you can go to school, and then eventually go to college or start a career, and from that career, we are supposed to change the world. But what if we didn’t have to change the world? What if we started with our smaller world: our local communities?
One of my favorite video games of all time is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. I even named my childhood cat Zelda. If you’ve ever played this game, the main objective is to stop the Skull Kid from destroying the world within 3 days. The moon is going to fall and consume and destroy everything the citizens of Clock Town hold dear unless you help them. The game has an overall melodramatic and depressing vibe. It seems hopeless to accomplish this giant task (pun intended) within only 72 in-game hours (each hour is only 45 seconds!) But there’s a catch. You can reverse time and go back to the dawn of the first day, and try again.
Why am I bringing this up? Is it because I have ADHD? Partially. But the main reason I am mentioning this is that there are NPCs (non-playable characters) who are living in the world about to be destroyed. They go about their daily tasks, and they all have problems. Problems that, by getting to know them, you can solve.
You can reunite a couple who has been separated by a curse, help a struggling magic bean salesman, rescue fairies, and save a farm from an alien abduction, among other things. Although you have to reset time to beat the game, you are rewarded for helping people with masks. These masks stay with you even when everything else resets. These masks are memories.
There are so many people within a community that need help in some way. When I first moved to my town, I felt called to get involved in the community. I am a shy person who spends a lot of time isolated, but I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone.
I started thinking about my skills in a new way. I realized I could actually help people with whatever I could do. I thought of helping people like going on a quest. I reached out to the local Animal Sanctuary and helped with their clothing designs, painting things to sell in the gift shop, and Etsy page, all things that I was skilled in, and applied them in a different way, one not focused on capitalism or making money or fame.
I made coloring pages for the local Cat Cafe and helped them with their website, skills I have learned from my years as an illustrator and small business owner. I created a logo for a mental health organization and donated that. I donated original clothing I had designed to a group helping Trans and nonbinary people who wanted to express themselves.
Even reaching out and talking to someone can help you both feel less alone. I started to notice a change within myself, and in the words of Michael Jackson, “If you wanna make the world a better place/ Take a look at yourself and then make a change.” Thank you, grocery store job, for making that song a permanent earworm in my head.
I had been relying on fast food and quick hits of dopamine (endless scrolling, anyone?) to churn the engine of my life. I would buy clothes mindlessly when I was sad. I would overeat because I was sad. I would overeat because I was happy. The things I cared about in my life were self-centered, focused on self-soothing, and not entirely healthy for my body or my wallet. But I have to tell you, the more I started to give – my time, my skills, my empathy – the less I started to want.
It is amazing how many things you can get for free if you really try. There are these groups on Facebook and other social media called “Buy Nothing” groups, where people will post “gives,” things they want to give away, and members can comment under the post letting them know they are interested. You can also ask for things, just by saying for example, “In search of a computer chair for my office, thank you!” Go ahead and search for one in your local community. If your community doesn’t have one, maybe you could start one.
There are these things called “Little Free Libraries,” which can be started by anyone in a community, to provide books on loan for those who pass by. My friend does it. It’s really great.
When you first sign up for apps or join free reward programs, sometimes you can get free things. A free pizza. A free soda. A free oil change after the 10th one or something. Take advantage of all the freebies around you. There are free events everywhere. Just google “free events near me,” or get specific like, “free yoga near me.” A lot of first classes are free and there’s no obligation to take another one.
What skills do you possess? How can you help your community with them? Are you a carpenter? Build someone something they need. Are you a designer? Donate just one logo to a charity that you care about (it is important to set the precedent to get paid as a designer (topic for another time), so do this with caution, and it’s better if you’re well-established.)
Are you into gaming? Do a charity stream on Twitch or play some citizen science games. Are you just a human? There are so many ways you can help by volunteering your time to organizations and people that need you. Get creative with how you can help.
It is kind of miraculous how much generosity awaits us if we go searching for it, and if we create it ourselves.
From this droplet of a helpful spirit in your community, there will inevitably be a ripple effect outward, toward the entire world. Someone you’ve helped may tell another person you helped, and maybe you could help them. Just hearing a story of someone helping can make thousands of people smile.
The world is gross and scary. Sometimes it feels like a giant angry moon is crashing towards us. But as Mr. Roger once said, "My mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world." Gosh, I love Mr. Rogers. May you see the helpers and may you be the helpers.
You may not have loads of money or many resources, but you do have your time, your skills, and your empathy. That is how to make a difference. And that is why I believe we are here.
Thank you for reading. Let’s help each other help each other. Take care, love one another, and stay hydrated!