Ever get an idea you think is so awesome you can’t wait to get started on it and the idea keeps you awake because you thought of it at night and then you wake up thinking about it again, but you’re too lazy to get out of bed to google it so you just lay there and the idea gets bigger and bigger and you get more and more excited?
Ever do that? Me too.
I wanted to create a Make A Difference Day and have this day on the anniversary of my Dad’s death. My Dad’s last name was Madden (see how that would work? M.A.D.-MADden) -I thought it would be awesome to create this day and inspire people to do something to make a difference in the world. I’ve done things to honor my Dad every year on the anniversary of his death (You can read about Pledge-A-Post here and here) and thought I’d come up with something extra cool this year -something I could do every year as a tradition.
When I finally got out of bed, I googled this Make A Difference creation I’d expanded in my mind and found out it’s already been done. And it’s been done right and big and I would probably get sued if I tried to start my own Make A Difference day. The folks at USAToday declared the fourth Saturday in October as Make A Difference Day twenty years ago in 1992. They’ve got a cool logo, merchandise and are sponsored by the incredible Newman’s Own Brand. See? It’s big.
I can still ask you to make a difference today. I just won’t have a logo, make a website, and use capital letters like a title when I write about it here. I want you to make a difference because you never know who might need it. You never know how it might help.
Twenty three years ago today, my Dad decided he was done. He took his own his life and left us behind to figure out what to do with the muddy, confusing loss that is suicide. I’m not saying a small gesture like what I’m asking of you is what would have saved my Dad. His decision came from a mixed cocktail of mental illness, addiction, an abusive childhood, and bad choices. He needed a heck of a lot more than a smile.
But that’s not my point. I’m just asking everyone to be a little kinder, a little gentler today. You never know what someone is going through and a bit of kindness goes a long way. Maybe a smile wouldn’t have made a difference for my Dad, but it might be just what someone else needs who is struggling through the day.
I’ve relied on kindness so many times from friends and strangers as I’ve struggled to make sense of what my Dad did. The little gestures add up to make a difference.
So I’m asking you to perform some random acts of kindness:
- Don’t honk, even if the driver deserves it.
- Put your phone away while you’re driving. You know you shouldn’t be doing that.
- Pay for someone’s toll or parking or coffee. Wouldn’t you love it if someone did that for you?
- Smile. Please -just put a smile on your face for the day -people smile back!
- Talk to someone who needs a friend.
- Listen to someone who wants to talk.
- Pick up that trash you see on the ground. Okay -not the scary, mushy trash, but that piece of paper? Just pick that up.
- Give someone a hug. You get one in return -bonus!
- Offer to help if it looks like someone needs it.
- Laugh a lot.
- Donate money to a charity. Don’t know who to donate to? Here are some of my favorite philanthropic folks: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, The Tony Hawk Foundation, The Progeria Research Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, The American Cancer Society, Help a Mother Out
- Say yes if it helps.
- Say no if that’s what would help instead.
- Hold the door open for the next person.
- Let someone go in front of you in line if they have a fussy child with them or just three items in their basket or they’re looking at their watch and are clearly in a hurry.
- Say excuse me.
- Say please.
- Say thank you.
- Tell someone they did a great job, they’re wonderful, they look nice, or they make you want to be a better person.
You know all of these things could make a difference. Every little bit helps. Ripples can spread in ways you never knew were possible.
Please do this in honor of my Dad or anyone you know who committed suicide -and do it for all of us who are left here with each other as Survivors of Suicide. After writing about my Dad here and here, I learned more people have been affected by this than I realized. It’s just not something we talk about. Suicide is messy and grieving from it is difficult and isolating and private. Kindness counts when someone is trying to make sense of something so senseless.
If you’re a survivor, I’m so sorry for your loss. I know the pain is debilitating and it’s a horribly difficult grieving process. If you’re thinking of taking your own life, stop reading this and call someone to get help: 1-800-273-HELP is the number for Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Start there. You’re important and deserve to feel better than you do right now.
We’re all in this together and we all matter. We all can make a difference.
Two more things -please -would you let me know what you did -or plan to do -today that makes a difference for someone? I’d love to hear how you created a change in the world. And finally, please spread the word. It would make me so joyous if this message of kindness was passed around.
Thanks so much for your help, your love, and your support through the years. You all have made a difference in ways you’ll never know. Blessings to you and yours. And to me and mine, too, while I’m at it.