What happened when I gave 40 teenagers a dollar and told them to make a difference?

         Challenge accepted.

My friend Sue gave me 40-one dollar bills for my birthday. And then she told me to think of a creative way to spend it.

Not only does she know my heart, she knows I love a good challenge. And immediately my mind was cranking out crazy ideas.

After thumbing through the bills and wracking my brain, I landed on a fantastic idea.

dollar 2
Print this handout below!

I was going to challenge my students to make a #dollardifference.

I would give away my one dollar bills – each one to a different student – and give them 24 hours to make a difference with that dollar.

Then I went a step beyond – and asked the other 120 students I have to contribute their own dollar and do the same: make a #dollardifference.

Not that I doubted their abilities or their drive, but what happened next went beyond what I expected. Twitter and Instagram practically exploded my notifications with students taking pictures of their #dollardifference adventures.

dd7One girl headed to the dollar store, bought a teddy bear, and stopped at the hospital. She and her dad met a man who had been in the hospital over 100 days – a total stranger – and she spent time talking with and encouraging him.

She made a difference.

Another girl folded her dollar into a paper crane, giving a message of hope to a student in liver failure.

dd9An avid slushie fan left her money on a local gas station slushie machine.

Another student paid it forward at the library copy machine.

The dollar store, Wal-mart, gas stations…countless students took their everyday experiences and made a difference with one dollar.

A few girls visited the local animal shelter armed with treats their combined dollars had purchased.

An innovative student tied her dollar to a balloon and let it fly – hoping the recipient would get a pleasant hovering surprise.

A few kids took the RedBox route, purchasing a night of entertainment for an unsuspecting shopper.

The list could go on and on…two students even rode their bikes to Walgreens, bought a card, then rode their bikes to a retirement home, met a stranger, and gave her a card.

That night I was so inspired by the big hearts of my students, I began tagging and challenging my fellow teachers and former students with this message:

 You’ve been challenged to make a #dollardifference.
You have 24 hours to make a difference
with one dollar.

dd1They accepted the challenge! Some of the trainers and coaches made a difference by giving away chocolate milk for kids who reached their PE goals.

My English teacher friends woke up friends with coffee and left dollar bills in their favorite books.

Because one friend was generous with her pocketbook, her creativity, and her heart, my students were able to make a difference with a dollar.

Every time I tell students they can make a difference, I see the doubt in their eyes. Because they feel like they have to something big – something extraordinary.

But if we – their parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, friends, and family – could show them that they can make a difference with a mere dollar, they could see that small things grow into medium things that skyrocket into big things.

When one of my students discovered that his #dollardifference had been found and posted on Twitter by someone else, his response was beyond elated.


His realization that the small token, a few minutes thinking about how to encourage someone else, had made a difference was life changing.

As a teacher, my job isn’t just to teach English. Or critical thinking. Or writing. Or reading. My job is to instill in students a passion for living and learning. My job is to show them that every day presents a new opportunity to be better versions of themselves. My job is to teach them life lessons that they can use to, in turn, teach someone else.

And tonight, my heart is full. Because not only have they made a #dollardifference, but they’ve discovered the joy of changing the world around them one dollar, one deed, and one day at a time.

Print the “Make a difference with a dollar” handout!

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Join us and make a #dollardifference! Then tag me @WisehartCFC on Twitter or @carrielane on Instagram! Or comment below and tell me how you made a difference with one dollar! Consider yourself OFFICIALLY tagged!

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