The Quote Garden

 I dig old books.

 Est. 1998

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Quotations about Helping
and Making a Difference

In about the same degree as you are helpful you will be happy. ~Karl Reiland, "The Fashion of a Man," The World's Miracle, 1929

The hardest thing about making a difference is keeping at it when there's no clear evidence that you are. ~Robert Brault,

Down in their hearts wise men know this truth: the only way to help yourself is to help others. ~Elbert Hubbard

Wishing good, merely, is a lukewarm charity; but doing good is divine. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

If you would not cease to love mankind you must not cease to do them good. ~Marie Dubsky, Freifrau von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830–1916), translated by Mrs Annis Lee Wister, 1882

Not a little of the education of a lad is to get him out of the world of eating, and give him a chance and an impulse to feed others. One may go through six tiers of schools and when he comes out of the top one with half a dozen diplomas, be ignorant of the finest of all arts, that of helping God to make the world a good one to live in. ~Edward Payson Powell (1833–1915), "An Old-Time Thanksgiving," 1904

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. ~Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It's not.
~Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

The willingness to share does not make one charitable; it makes one free. ~Robert Brault,

Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him. ~Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965)

He who gives when he is asked has waited too long. ~Seneca

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. ~Bernard Shaw, Epistle Dedicatory to Arthur Bingham Walkley, Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy, 1903

The four most important words in the English language are: "How can I help?" ~Author unknown, c. 1960s

I am but one
But I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But I can do something.
What I can do I ought to do,
And what I ought to do,
God helping me, I will do.
~Anonymous, in The Standard, 1902

The Part you play, however small,
Is greater far than None at All.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Trifles," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

No man stands so straight as one who stoops to help a child. ~James J. Davis, c. 1920s

Some find their heroes 'mid the battle's strife;
The greatest heroes are in private life.
~Simeon Carter (1824–1911), Poems and Aphorisms: A Woodman's Musings, 1893

To have and not to give is often worse than to steal. ~Marie Dubsky, Freifrau von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830–1916), translated by Mrs Annis Lee Wister, 1882

Charity sees the need, not the cause. ~German proverb

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
~William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, c.1596  [V, 1, Portia]  [D. W. Brogan, 1964: "shone like a good deed in a weary world" — David Seltzer, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971 film: "So shines a good deed in a weary world." —tg]

The surest cure for loneliness, the quickest way to happiness, is found in this, a simple creed: Go serve someone in greater need. ~William Arthur Ward (1921–1994)

When "Do no Evil" has been understood,
Then learn the harder, braver rule, "Do Good."
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Duty," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

What we have done for ourselves alone, dies with us; what we have done for others and the world, remains and is immortal. No man, however lofty and however humble, can isolate himself from his kind, and, shutting himself up in the dark cell of his exclusiveness, determine to live for himself alone. No man, however obscure, can truly say that he is so unknown, and so unimportant, that he can contribute nothing to enlighten and benefit Humanity... Let us grow in Love as well as in Knowledge... ~Albert Pike, 1860

You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give. ~Author Unknown

How weak we are when we are selfish. How strong when we are loving, how varied, how manifold. It is, indeed, more blessed to give than to receive; for giving is the most receptive of all acts. We give from the finite, but we receive from the Infinite. ~Putnam, as quoted in The Christian Pioneer, 1874

I wondered why somebody didn't do something. Then I realized, I am somebody. ~Author unknown

All it takes is one person who cares, and there goes the vast, uncaring universe. ~Robert Brault,

It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference. ~Tom Brokaw, as quoted in John C. Maxwell, The Success Journey, 1997

You look at the issues of our day, and you wonder if there's ever been a time when so much good could be done by just doing the least we can do. ~Robert Brault,

The only care
      That I shall share
      Shall be the care of others,
      And on the road
      I'll halve the load
      Of overburdened brothers.
I rather guess
      It's selfishness
      That drives me to such actions,
      For in this plan
      I find I can
      Forget my own distractions.
~John Kendrick Bangs (1862–1922), "A Useful Whim," The Cheery Way: A Bit of Verse For Every Day, 1920

If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito. ~Anita Roddick, c.1993  []

Boatman, ask not what to do;
Pull the Oar that's nearest you!
~Arthur Guiterman, "Old Irish Proverbs," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

The thing is, I think, to think less of ourselves and what we are to our work, and more of our work and what it is to us. The world moves along, not merely by the gigantic shoves of its hero-workers, but by the aggregate tiny pushes of every honest worker whatever. All may give some tiny push or other and feel that they are doing something for mankind. ~John Richard Green, letter to Louise von Glehn, 1870

I am going to give from every corner of my soul. ~Mike Dolan, @HawaiianLife

      In what part of the universe are you, and what are you doing?... Nowhere is the sky so blue, the grass so green, the sunshine so bright, the shade so welcome, as right here, now, today. No other blue sky, nor bright sunshine, nor welcome exist for you. Other skies are bright to other men. They have been bright in the past and so will they be again, but yours are here and now.
      Today is your day and mine, the only day we have, the day in which we play our part. What our part may signify in the great whole we may not understand, but we are here to play it, and now is the time. This we know, it is a part of action, not of whining. It is a part of love, not cynicism. It is for us to express love in terms of human helpfulness. This we know, for we have learned from sad experience that any other course of life leads toward decay and waste.
      What, then, are you doing under these blue skies? The thing you do should be for you the most important thing in the world. If you could do something better than you are doing now, everything considered, why are you not doing it?
      If every one did the very best he knew, most of the problems of human life would be already settled... It does not matter if the greatest thing for you to do be not in itself great. The best preparation for greatness comes in doing faithfully the little things that lie nearest. ~David Starr Jordan, "The Meaning of Human Existence," 1899  [published in 1902 as "The Philosophy of Despair" and in 1907 as "The Philosophy of Hope," after the plates were destroyed in the San Francisco fire, "to be more cheerfully descriptive of the author's purpose" —tg]

And what more sublime delight than to... share our bread with one to whom misfortune has left none! ~Thomas Jefferson, 1786

The only gift is a portion of thyself.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The harvest of happiness is most often reaped by the hands of helpfulness. ~William Arthur Ward, For This One Hour, 1969

Love the earth and sun and animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people... re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem... ~Walt Whitman

It's not that successful people are givers; it is that givers are successful people. ~Patti Thor

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. ~Kahlil Gibran

No one is useless in this world... who lightens the burden of it for any one else. ~Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend, 1865

No joy can equal the joy of serving others. ~Morarji Desai (1896–1995)

To fold the hands in prayer is well, to open them in charity is better. ~French proverb

While duty measures the regard it owes
With scrupulous precision and nice justice,
Love never reasons, but profusely gives,
Gives, like a thoughtless prodigal, its all,
And trembles then, lest it has done too little.
~Hannah More

It's good to be blessed. It's better to be a blessing. ~Author unknown

Act always from a sense of common humanity, and let God judge if it be charity. ~Robert Brault,

It seemed that in the old days his father used to be happier, even though he was always in some kind of trouble, but what he remembered he used to call “good trouble” when his wife would unleash her tongue on him, the kind when you fight the good fight, not to win alone, but where you must take as well as give; where you help the poor by giving them the tips you yourself need; where you take home a drunken stranger only to be berated by his wife as the cause of her man's downfall; where you help a man roof his house on your day off and lose three days of work by falling and spraining your back; when you raise a giant fist and get a black eye and a cut lip defending a woman against some Revere Street bum who has drunk too much. Yes, or even when you separate two dogs in a fight, only to have the one who was underneath turn on you and give you a bite in the leg. ~Richard Hagopian, Wine for the Living, 1956

When your suffering is a little greater than my suffering I feel that I am a little cruel. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

Don't be classed as Idle Freight.
Work your Passage! Pull your Weight!
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Service," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

      You may or may not have heard this story. But since it is the kind of a story that always bears repeating —
      One night the Prince of Wales and Sir James Barrie went to the Talbot House to light the lamps. And as they lighted them they said this ritual:
      "What lights this lamp?" said one; and the answer came, "Unselfish Service."
      "What keeps these lamps lit?" Again the answer, "Unselfish Service."
      "What is Service?" And the answer came, "It is the rent we pay for the room we occupy on earth." ~Arthur Staples, Rotary graduation address, 1925  [A little altered. The Talbot House, or Toc H, was opened by Rev. Philip Byard "Tubby" Clayton in 1915. —tg]

The things that make a man a prince,
      The kind that we would be,
Are character and common sense,
      And true humility.
That thing that makes a noble life,
      The kind that really lives,
Is always putting others first,
      The kind of life that gives.
~William Arthur Ward, "The Things That Make a Man"

A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog when you are just as hungry as the dog. ~Jack London, "Confession," The Road, 1907

I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise
Of ordinary people leading ordinary lives
Filled with love, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice
Heaven's in our hearts
~Tracy Chapman, "Heaven's Here On Earth," New Beginning, 1995 ♫

See yourself always as cause, and perhaps a better world will be found among your effects. ~Robert Brault,

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back. ~Maya Angelou, 1992

Give, and blessings boomerang back to you. ~Terri Guillemets, "Giving is getting," 1993

Every action of your life touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity. ~Edwin Hubbell Chapin (1814–1880), "Address to the Young"

The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden under ground, secretly making the ground green... ~Thomas Carlyle, "Varnhagen von Ense's Memoirs," 1838

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. ~Robert F. Kennedy, 1966

People are marvelous in their generosity if they just know the cause is there. ~Will Rogers (1879–1935)

I can think of no more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire engine. ~Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007)

Share the good parts of you with others! ~Pat Palmer (1928–2015), Liking Myself, 1977

There are two ways of spreading light; to be
The candle or the mirror that reflects it.
~Edith Wharton, "Vesalius in Zante (1564)," Artemis to Actæon and Other Verse, 1909

He had not become a great man; he had not grown rich; he had not forgotten the scenes and friends of his youth: he had not fulfilled any one of the Doctor's old predictions. But in his useful, patient, unknown visiting of poor men's homes; and in his watching of sick beds; and in his daily knowledge of the gentleness and goodness flowering the by-paths of the world, not to be trodden down beneath the heavy foot of poverty, but springing up, elastic, in its track, and making its way beautiful; he had better learned and proved, in each succeeding year, the truth of his old faith. The manner of his life, though quiet and remote, had shown him how often men still entertained angels, unawares, as in the olden time; and how the most unlikely forms — even some that were mean and ugly to the view, and poorly clad — became irradiated by the couch of sorrow, want, and pain, and changed to ministering spirits with a glory round their heads. ~Charles Dickens (1812–1870)

If the world seems cold to you,
Kindle fires to warm it!...
~Lucy Larcom, "Three Old Saws," 1868

[U]sefulness is happiness, and... all other things are but incidental. ~Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, 1829

But before they had reached the corner of the lane, the man came running after them, and pressing her hand, left something in it — two old, battered, smoke-encrusted penny pieces. Who knows but they shone as brightly in the eyes of angels as golden gifts that have been chronicled on tombs? ~Charles Dickens (1812–1870)

You may not have saved a lot of money in your life, but if you have saved a lot of heartaches for other folks, you are a pretty rich man. ~Seth Parker, quoted in Herbert V. Prochnow, 1000 Tips and Quips for Speakers and Toastmasters, 1962

My life is my message. ~Mohandas K. "Mahatma" Gandhi (1869–1948)

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ~Mohandas K. "Mahatma" Gandhi (1869–1948)

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~Attributed to Mohandas K. "Mahatma" Gandhi (1869–1948), beginning c.1990s  [His grandson Arun Gandhi uses that, or simply "Be the change" to sum up his grandfather's essence. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Be the change you want to see happen rather than trying to change anyone else. ~Arleen Lorrance received the six "Love Principles" in 1970 when she was teaching in a ghetto high school in Brooklyn, New York. These simple principles were put into practice as part of The Love Project (Another of the principles: "Receive all people as beautiful exactly as they are.")

The most fundamental winning formula is to bet on human decency and be patient. ~Robert Brault,

Life is never so busy that there is no time to serve. ~Author unknown

I've learned... that sometimes coming public with certain things, it inspires other people. And sometimes I want to keep things private... but then I found out that it helps other families... ~Bubba Watson, January 2014, speaking of adoption

For every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action... ~James Russell Lowell, "Rousseau and the Sentimentalists," 1867

Each good deed strengthens our angel wings. ~Terri Guillemets

They are also heroes who cheer the parade and return quietly to their uncelebrated lives. ~Robert Brault,

...That there's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self. ~Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have a Stop, 1944

Instead of counting your days, make your days count. ~Author unknown

Each of us can only do the best we can for as many as we can and that will never be good enough for those of us who care! ~Rea Cord

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published 1998 Mar 18
revised 2021 Jul 14
last saved 2023 Feb 22