Put away the cell phone. (His rings constantly.) Hide the pager. (His plays Midnight Rambler.) Ignore the hordes of screaming fans. (OK, maybe you don't have that problem.) Do whatever it takes, says Justin Timberlake, to set aside a few hours for Make A Difference Day next weekend. "The slightest effort can make the biggest difference in someone's life," encourages the soft-spoken singer who is part of the hot pop quintet 'N Sync.
The 18-year-old Memphis native has surprisingly wide experience at making a difference: He regularly meets with critically ill kids from the Make A Wish Foundation, and his group sponsors a charity called Challenge for the Children. He also recently began his own Justin Timberlake Foundation, a member of The Giving Back Fund's family of charities, to support school theater and music programs. "I was raised up in a Southern home where you learn that you help your neighbor," he explains. "This is something I feel is more important than anything else: If you can help somebody, why not?"
The key to helping, for Justin, is finding causes he enjoys. "I have a thing for little kids," he admits with his slow smile. "I see kids and I just want to help them." Then, too, "music is also something I enjoy. I want to show people how special it can be.
People can make a big difference with things close to their heart." Justin wants his school programs to give kids a creative outlet and expand their horizons. "Studies have shown that kids who learn music do better in math, better in spelling. Give these kids training, next thing you know they start a garage band and become Pearl Jam."
He wants to touch individual kids with his good deeds but his real goal is grander. "I want to reach the world."
His hero: Paul Newman, a Make A Difference Day supporter whose charitable giving has helped so many.
In fact, he hopes everyone will "go for it" next weekend. "Seeing a smile on a kid's face and knowing you put it there is the best feeling in the world. It makes you feel better about yourself, about everything." It makes a difference...