If you didn't arrange a formal volunteering project in advance, there are still hundreds of things you can do on a personal level today to make a small difference in the lives of the people around you. Let someone merge into traffic instead of cutting them off. Put your car horn away for the day. Let the stressed-out mom with a full grocery cart and a screaming baby go ahead of you in line. Hold the door for the person(s) behind you. Help a total stranger with a heavy box. Donate $1 to the charity you always say "next time" to at the big box store. Buy a burger and a drink for the homeless person sitting outside the fast food place. Give up your seat to an elderly person (something we should be doing a lot more often, anyway). Pick up something someone dropped on the floor and hand it back to them. Let someone else go first.
Compliment or thank a co-worker for a job well done. Put away your ego. Be more thoughtful. Say "Thanks so much for your help, I really appreciate it" to the hopeless-sounding customer service representative on the other end of the phone. Weed part of your neighbor's yard while weeding your own. Let someone else have the good parking space. Pick up trash. Put away your gadgets and spend an uninterrupted hour with your kids or significant other. Catch up with someone you've been meaning to get to for weeks, months or years. Bake or buy cookies and offer them to others. Offer a few office supplies to a local jobs center. Close the loop with anxious job applicants. Donate to a food pantry. Let someone else have the last doughnut. Tell your loved ones how much you love them. Visit the USO's Wishbook and pledge a gift to our troops. Thank someone in uniform for his or her service while you're at it. Smile more. Listen better. Gripe less. Slow down. Hope the people you help today will pay it forward a little bit.
And tomorrow when someone you helped today is having a really bad day, they'll think back to yesterday and the nice thing you did for them and it will lift their spirits. Maybe things aren't so bad after all? Often it's the smallest acts of kindness that make the biggest difference. We're all in this together.
I'm planning to do at least one nice thing for someone else every hour between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. today in remembrance. I don't know what I'll do, exactly; I'll be making it up as I go along. Wish me luck.