What you do has an actual impact on the world and people around you. Here are some thoughts from the famous and not-so-famous on making a difference.

What is important in moments like these is not to think in binaries. Good/bad, screwed/not screwed. There is no doubt that things are bad. Some things, really bad. And they may likely get worse.

But that does not preclude the fact that slowly but surely, some good can be growing as other things fall apart. This is not some syrupy sweet silver lining case for optimism. Rather, it is really about a choice all of us have to make in life, either consciously or unconsciously: will I be a person who is safe and creates good for others?

Will I be a person who stands up? Will I be a person who primarily minds my business and serves myself or try to be part of something bigger? Or will I just be a passive, “neutral” observer of it all?

What I sometimes tell my staff is that the world we are fighting for is already here. It exists in small spaces, places, and communities. We don’t have to deal with the insurmountable burden of coming up with novel solutions to the world’s problems.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Kindness can transform someone’s dark moment with a blaze of light. You’ll never know how much your caring matters. Make a difference for another today.

— Amy Leigh Mercree

In a world where there is so much to be done, I felt strongly impressed that there must be something for me to do.

— Dorothea Dix

There is no life that does not contribute to history.

— Dorothy West

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

— Edward Everett Hale

Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.

— Jane Goodall

You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.

— Jane Goodall

I have one life and one chance to make it count for something … My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.

— Jimmy Carter

I have one life and one chance to make it count for something . . . I’m free to choose what that something is, and the something I’ve chosen is my faith. Now, my faith goes beyond theology and religion and requires considerable work and effort. My faith demands — this is not optional — my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.

— Jimmy Carter

Nothing, no one, is too small to matter. What you do is going to make a difference.

— Madeleine L’Engle, A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Never doubt that you can change history. You already have.

— Marge Piercy

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.

— Marian Wright Edelman

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.

— Mohandas Gandhi

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.

— Nelson Mandela

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, attributed, perhaps incorrectly

Much of our theology is fundamentally rooted in fear. It’s about escaping suffering, either in this life or in the next. Fear of hell. Fear of dying. Fear of scarcity. Fear of not making a difference in the world.

— Shane Claiborne & Michael Martin

To clarify thought, to discredit the intrinsically meaningless words, and to define the use of others by precise analysis—to do this, strange though it may appear, might be a way of saving human lives.

— Simone Weil

We are here on earth to do good for others. What the others are here for, I don’t know.

— W. H. Auden

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

— William James  

We don’t have to be “successful,” only valuable. We don’t have to make money, only a difference, and particularly in the lives society counts least and puts last.

— William Sloane Coffin
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