8 Tips on Making a Difference in Your World

Last year I worked right up to the week before Christmas. I had just finished a week of training, and I was ready to fly back to Utah from Westchester, New York for the holidays. I arrived at the airport early in case any unforeseen mishaps should occur. Sitting in the gate area with numerous people, I realized just how exhausted I was and that I was totally unprepared for the holiday season. I closed my eyes and let my head roll back and waited.  

Suddenly I felt something on my knee. When I opened my eyes, I saw a small two-year old girl who had placed her teddy bear on my knee. When I looked at her, she grabbed the bear and ran away. When I returned to my former position, she returned and did the same thing. This turned into a game that we played as I tried to get her to stay and interact with me. But each time, she retreated to the arms of her father. I began a conversation with him and discovered that he and his wife were flying with their three children from New York to Orlando, Florida to be with family for the holidays. After about an hour, I went and stood in front of my gate for the plane to board. After a while I noticed that the mother of the family with the little girl was crying while talking to the gate agent at an adjacent gate.

I waited until she left and then went and asked what was going on. The gate agent told me that the young family had arrived at the airport before 5 a.m. hoping to fly to Florida on standby. But there were so many people that they had missed being able to board two flights already. The prospect of making another plane as more people arrived at the airport was diminishing.

Then that little voice in my head said, “Pay for them to get on the next plane.” Initially I resisted that prompting but then it came again, so I approached the gate agent and how asked her how much it would be to get them all on the next plane to Florida. I handed her my credit card and told her that if I paid for them, then she had to go tell the woman that she and her family could get on the next plane, but she must not tell her who had paid.

Just as we finished the transaction, the mother of the family returned to check the status of her plane, and the gate agent let the cat out of the bag. She said, “You can go get your family to board this plane because this man has paid for your tickets.” Now I was embarrassed just standing there. The woman looked up into my eyes with wet eyes and then grabbed me and hugged me. In an instant, they called my plane, so I excused myself and left. As I walked to the plane, my feet felt like they never touched the ground.

Suddenly the feelings of love and appreciation for the holidays came flooding in. I felt gratitude for what I was able to do for someone else what they could not do for themselves.

During the holidays, regardless of your religious affiliation, isn’t that what we really celebrate? The gift that was given that we could not give to ourselves? I have found that when we give the gift that no one else can give, that gift has a profound ability to lift and inspire others and to provide hope to those who may be lacking or in want. 

Here are a number of suggestions that you might bring more joy and life into your holiday season:

1. Open your eyes. There are opportunities everywhere to do things for others that they can’t do for themselves. Just yesterday while standing in line at the store, a young mother was struggling with a baby in her arms and a toddler holding her hand. She couldn’t get out her checkbook without putting the baby on the ground. As she did so I asked, “May I?” while scooping the child up off of the ground. If you look for opportunities, you will see them as they appear.

2. Be uncomfortable. Sometimes doing something for others or following that little voice in your head will put you in a situation that may make you feel uncomfortable. Don’t be dissuaded by those uncomfortable feelings. Accept them and do what you know you ought to do.

3. Write something. I have found that writing the members of my family a note of appreciation for something that they have done or a character trait that they have displayed during the year can have a great impact on them. This is something that only I can do because it encompasses my experience with them and how I feel about them.

4. Look for those in need. Some things you can do for others may be dependent upon your financial resources. Buying and leaving anonymous gifts on doorsteps is fun to do. Inviting others to dinner or paying for someone else’s dinner in a restaurant without their knowledge can be fulfilling. Our family likes to participate in the Sub-for-Santa program where you provide a Christmas for a needy family. If you have the resources, you might look to bestow some kindness on others.

5. Render service. Doing small acts of kindness go a long way to show people that you care about them and their well-being. You can shovel snow, rake leaves, scrape the ice off of windshields, do the dishes, pick up a mess, volunteer to run errands, or string lights. There are many people that have a difficult time doing some activities because of their age or physical limitations. Look for opportunities to do something for others that may be difficult or impossible for them to do for themselves.

6. Spend time. I know that I have mentioned this before, but there are many who go unvisited during the holidays. You don’t even have to know the person. Some of the best experiences I have had with my sons was when we went to visit an elderly care center, walked into rooms of people we didn’t even know, introduced ourselves, sat down, and just visited with them. Small acts like this can make someone’s day.

7. Reach out. We all have friends and family that we may not have spoken to in some time. Call them and tell them that you are thinking about them and that you wonder how they are doing. Whether you make a personal visit or just call them, your effort will mean something to them.

8. Reflect on blessings and opportunities. Sometimes the holiday season just becomes so hectic and busy that we don’t take some time for ourselves. Taking a minute to reflect on all that you have and the many opportunities that are yours, will help you feel gratitude for what you have, who you know, and what you have achieved during the year.  

This is a great time of year to rest and rejuvenate ourselves. Feeling the spirit of the holidays is a great way to do just that. And like effective conversation, that feeling is created by our deliberate efforts to get outside of ourselves and do something for others, something that they can’t do for themselves.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and that you will make the time to bless the lives of others.

Best Wishes!! 


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What people are saying

Robert Metzinger | December 22, 2015 | REPLY
Such good suggestions! This rings so true! When I have given gifts to people anonymously, it's been really rewarding to know a simple act of kindness can make someone's day. I've received a lot of joy for doing service but getting my 13yr old daughter involved was even more rewarding. To see her working hard and just loving the experience of helping someone is worth more than anything!
John Stoker | December 22, 2015 | REPLY
Robert, I am with you. We are working on my fifteen year-old, twelve year old, and seven year-old to learn more about getting outside of themselves and doing things for others. When they render service to others, it really helps them gain a much need perspective in the world. Thanks for sharing! Best Wishes for a wonderful holiday season.
Ileana | December 22, 2015 | REPLY
Excellent suggestions. One that I can relate to is be uncomfortable. So many times I hold back from doing things because of comments done by others.(e.g, they need their privacy, they like nice things, your a woman he is a man, what are people going to say and so on). I have come to the conclusion that I will do what I feel, because it has always made me feel great. I feel that as long as my intent is the right one, it really doesn't matter what others do or say. The satisfaction and the warmth makes my day. I too hope to teach my 16 year old son to do these things that feel so right.
John Stoker | December 22, 2015 | REPLY
Notice that part of managing your uncomfortableness encompasses managing the little voice in your head. If you are aware of your thoughts, you can choose to be influenced by them or not. But it sounds like you are doing a great job at that. Thanks for your comment!!
Paula Kiger | January 5, 2016 | REPLY
John, this story (re: the airport) REALLY moved me. I was sharing an airport shuttle back in September with a family who had been rebooked after a serious of airline issues ... they had unexpectedly spent the night in Miami, and were being flown into an airport that was NOT their intended airport, needing the car seat the relatives had planned to deliver, etc. I had my frustrations but they had a much bigger problem. I felt for them!! I am positive you made a difference for that family.
John Stoker | May 10, 2016 | REPLY
I think that we all have opportunities to lift others where we find them each day. If we could look for those opportunities and do something, I think we could all benefit. When we serve others is when we find joy in living. Being self consumed is not the answer to self fulfillment and growth. Sorry it took me so long to respond. Have a great week. J