3 Ways to Participate in Today's National Day of Service

Alexis Perrotta

One girl hands a flower to another.

Since 2009, September 11 has been observed as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, which makes today a day for thoughtful reflection, but also, for action.

If you'd like to participate but don't know where to begin, or you're not quite sure how you to best contribute your time and effort, especially on a work day, here are three ways to lend your support to the efforts happening across the country today.

Clean out your pantry

In my house, for whatever reason, by the end of the summer, we end up with a bit of a stockpile of odds and ends. Toothbrushes, floss, and mini toothpastes from the year's dentist visits, candy and granola bars left over from this or that road trip or long flight, and more hotel soaps and shampoos than you can shake a stick at.

If you find your cabinets in a similar situation, before the edible items have a chance to go bad, buy some brown paper bags (the kind you used to take your lunch to school in as a kid) and fill as many as you can, each with a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and some snacks. If you live in a city like I do, it probably isn't too hard to find folks who would really appreciate one of those little brown baggies, be it on your way to work or perhaps while you're strolling around during lunch.

If you don't live in a city, reach out to local religious organizations and find out when the next time they'll be running a drive for the sorts of items you've collected, and be sure to confirm what items they'll accept.

Pro Tip: With the Jewish New Year and high holidays just around the corner, many synagogues organize donation drives this time of year.

Be kind

On days like like today, while your first inclination may be to find a more obvious or Instagram-worthy act of service, don't underestimate the little things that perhaps only you as a good-deed doer, and the person on the receiving end of your kind act, may notice.

Give somebody your seat on the subway, buy a hot lunch for somebody who looks like they can use it, or buy a cup of coffee for the person standing in line behind you at your local coffee shop. You may even use this day as an excuse to connect with loved ones with a phone call or a surprise visit.

No matter the size of the gesture, it all matters.

Donate money, if you can

As parts of the U.S. as well as many regions around the world reel in the aftermath of some truly catastrophic natural disasters, it's important to remember that a small amount of money can go a long way.

"Generally, after a disaster, people with loving intentions donate things that cannot be used in a disaster response ... and they have no idea that they're doing it," says Juanita Rilling, former Director for the Center for International Disaster Information.

Though you may be moved to send some clothing, toys, or other goods to those who have lost everything, news outlets implore those of us looking for ways to help to send money first.

Here is a guide to donating responsibly, as published by ABC News.

How are you observing the National Day of Service and Remembrance? Tweet us at @idealistcareers and share your story and suggestions for how others can join in.

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Alexis Perrotta

As the Associate Director of Editorial and Career Content at Idealist and a lifelong nonprofit professional, Alexis offers job seekers, game changers, and do gooders actionable tips, career resources, and social-impact advice.

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