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Forget the mannequin challenge. Try the empathy challenge this holiday season.

31 small ways to make a positive difference in the world.

Forget the mannequin challenge. Try the empathy challenge this holiday season.
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Hallmark

In many ways, we are the center of our own worlds.

We see things through the lens of our own experiences, our own communities, the things we read, and the people we interact with. But the world is so much bigger than what we've seen. It's so much more diverse than our own experiences.

It's impossible to know and understand everything, but we can do our best to empathize. Even the tiniest effort on our parts can make someone else feel heard and appreciated, brightening their day.  


Image via iStock.

With this in mind, we challenge you to 31 days of empathy.

And don’t worry, we’ve put together a list to get you started. Here are 31 small actions you can take over the course of December to make this chaotic world a slightly better place.

Dec. 1: Compliment a stranger.

Dec. 2: When you disagree with someone, ask them to explain what they mean. Peek into their thought process.

Dec. 3: Don’t shy away from tough conversations. Have a relative or friend who is saying something offensive? Gently let them know. Discuss it.

Dec. 4: Make an effort to carry a few dollars on you to give to someone who is homeless this week.

Image via iStock.

Dec. 5: Never carry cash? Grab an extra sandwich in the store and offer it to a homeless person when they ask for help.

Dec. 6: Make an effort to consume news that isn't tailored to your leanings. Facebook is great, but it can keep us in our bubbles. Go to a news site. Read a few articles there. Chances are, you'll learn a new perspective.

Dec. 7: Go holiday shopping with a friend. See how much thought they're putting into gift selection, and remember that it's not about the things we get, it's about the people in our lives.  

Dec. 8: Someone make you angry? Pause. Walk away from the situation. Then ask yourself how they might be feeling. Assume good intentions, even if the execution was upsetting.

Dec. 9: There are lots of kids who aren't able to celebrate the holiday season with their families. Stop by a local orphanage or foster care center and drop off little holiday treats like cookies or toys. Let them know you care.

Dec. 10: Watch a documentary on another culture to understand a lifestyle that is completely different from yours.

Image via iStock.

Dec. 11: Put the emphasis on traditions and being together — and less on gifts. You never know what someone’s financial situation is. Removing the obligation will make the holidays that much more enjoyable.

Dec. 12: Did someone's smile or kind words brighten your day? Tell them that.

Dec. 13: Ask someone how their day is going, and prod them to actually answer. And then listen.

Dec. 14: Read through "Aesop's Fables" again for small reminders about the ways our interactions affect other people.

Dec. 15: Send someone you've lost touch with a note saying, "Happy holidays." It’s a small gesture, but it lets them know you're thinking of them, and it may rekindle that friendship.

Dec. 16: Volunteer at a food bank and talk to the families it serves.

Image via iStock.

Dec. 17: Leave a thank-you note at your favorite cafe or restaurant to spread a little holiday cheer.

Dec. 18: Ask an elderly person if they’d like help carrying their groceries.

Dec. 19: Go to a cafe, put your phone away, and people-watch. You'll be surprised to notice the assumptions you make and how wrong those assumptions can be.

Dec. 20: Call your parents. Ask them how their day went. Tell them that you love them. Show them that you care.

Dec. 21: Lucky enough to still have your grandparents in your life? Give them a call too. Or better yet, if you’re able, stop by unexpectedly and just hang out.

Image via iStock.

Dec. 22: Borrowing a friend’s car to run some holiday errands? Don’t forget to top off the gas. Giving gas money is helpful, but filling the tank is even more appreciated.

Dec. 23: You work with your coworkers every day and face a number of challenges together. Tell them you appreciate them.

Dec. 24: Live in an area where parking is tough? Ask your neighbor if they need your parking spot if they’re unloading gifts or groceries.  

Dec. 25: Does one person in your family usually do all the cooking? Help them out. Stay in the kitchen, tell them stories, and dive in to help make a dish or clean up.  

Dec. 26: Treat a loved one to a day of their “favorites”: favorite breakfast, favorite movie, favorite restaurant. Make it their day.

Dec. 27: Write New Year's cards for the people in your life. Some you may be in touch with every day, others you may have lost contact with. Tell them you appreciate them and wish them the best in the new year.

Dec. 28: Talk to someone from a different culture. Ask them about their holiday traditions. Learn about their experiences.

Dec. 29: See a kid throwing a tantrum in the middle of a store? Don’t stare. The parents are having a hard enough time as it is.

Dec. 30: Take a deep breath when you’re driving. Traffic is going to suck. But everyone has somewhere to go. You’re all in it together.

Dec. 31: Talk to a stranger. Ask them about their day and where they're from. You'd be surprised what a simple "hello" can lead to.

Image via Cliff/Flickr.

The holidays are about more than gifts and days off work.

So take a moment to celebrate your family and the people you love. And then step outside of your world and try to be a bright spot in someone else’s day. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, we just have to try our hardest to be mindful of spreading goodwill. These gestures might be small, but they are important now more than ever.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via The BC Cancer Foundation

Testicular cancer typically affects men between the ages of 16 and 44 and is the most common solid tumor to occur in men of this age group. These tumors grow rapidly and can double in size in just 10 to 30 days.

The disease is potentially fatal if not discovered early and accounts for about 11%-13% of all cancer deaths of men between the ages of 15-35. An estimated 9,60 people were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2020, resulting in around 440 deaths.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.