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 can best contribute your time—here are four ways to lend your support to efforts happening across the country.
Clean out your pantry
By the end of the summer in my house, for whatever reason, we end up with 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, 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 bags, 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 organizations or religious institutions to find out when they'll next 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.
On days 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 and the person on the receiving end of your kind act may notice.
Give up your seat on the subway, buy a hot lunch for somebody who can use it, or buy a cup of coffee for the person standing in line behind you at a local coffee shop. You may even use this day as an excuse to connect with loved ones with a phone call or surprise visit.
No matter the size of the gesture, it all matters.
Take the day to volunteer
If you think of volunteering as a weekly or monthly commitment to an organization you have a strong connection to, well, you’re not wrong; volunteering on September 11 can be a great way to take action for a cause you care about in honor of the day. But if you’re itching to do something short-term for the National Day of Service and Remembrance, take a look at the hundreds of volunteer listings on Idealist.
With opportunities ranging from assembling meal packs for people experiencing homelessness to supporting veterans who are expecting, there are plenty of in-person and remote options that can work for your schedule.
Donate money, if you can
As parts of the U.S. and many other 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.
Though you may be moved to send some clothing, toys, or other goods to those who have lost everything, material items can sometimes further burden a community that is already in crisis. To ensure you’re donating responsibly, check with organizations that are on-the-ground supporting communities to see if there are specific requests for material items.
Are you a seasoned volunteer? Find out how weaving your experience into application materials can support your job search and advance your career.