List the times when you felt like you made a difference in someone else’s life:
[This is a harder question than it should be. Sad, too, to think maybe I haven’t made much of a difference.]
- There are the obvious, big things, of course. I made a difference slowly and consistently, over the long term, in the lives of the people I raised, or helped to raise: my brothers and sisters, other children I took care of, my own children, and my grandchildren. I made a difference, I hope, to the children and adults that I’ve taught, over the years, through the weeks or months of lessons. I’ve made a difference in every job I’ve held, by always applying myself, working to a high standard and showing friendliness and enthusiasm.
[But the directive says “list the times.” That seems to be asking for specific, individual occurrences. Much more difficult.]
- When my oldest daughter was a young adult, she moved to Texas with her boyfriend when his job sent him there. Though he was a nice young man, and they were in love, things did not go well for her. They had moved there for his [high-paying] job, so her pursuits took the back seat. My daughter found herself falling into a role of “little wife” and “helpmate.” She cleaned up after her boyfriend and his friends; she packed lunches and delivered them to the job site; she fit her life around his schedule. Far from family and friends, accustomed to having her own job and income, she was having a hard time, becoming increasingly more discouraged and depressed. My concern grew with each telephone conversation. Finally, I flew to Texas for a visit. I didn’t “do” any specific thing, but I believe my presence made a difference. We talked; we laughed; we enjoyed the pool. We were both reading the series of books by Jean M. Auel, and compared our thoughts as we progressed. We explored the city and its outskirts. We looked into colleges, job possibilities, and other programs. It was a good week! By the time I left, my daughter seemed like herself again. She was asserting her place in the relationship with her boyfriend, and in the household. Many things remained exactly as they had been, but she was no longer the “default” person for all of the clean-up. She had enrolled in business school, and was excited about her prospects.
[So is that it?? ONE bullet point? What kind of list is that? I can’t think of another!]
- So, then there are the little things, impossible to list individually, often done without thought or planning, and hardly remembered, but that I know have sometimes made a difference. This includes: honest compliments, freely offered; kindness in daily interactions; a smile; genuine empathy for another’s plight; a hand-written note of thanks or appreciation; understanding, with or without agreement; and sometime’s just my presence. Each are easy, thoughtless, little things, but I learned the impact of these small kindnesses by noting how it felt when I received them from others. They make a big difference!