The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #26



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!





About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

4 responses »

  1. Hi Cindy. A list was requested because the happiness project is about lists. But you can and should ignore that in this case. You could list all kinds of specifics for the things you mentioned in your first and last paragraphs, and none of them would have the impact of what you wrote about in your middle paragraph. That is a powerful story, Cindy, and the absolutely perfect example of the difference you make by being in this world.

    • Thank you, Karen, for these kind words! I get a little uncomfortable with some of the “woo-woo” directives, that seem to be trying to pull out hidden feelings or reveal things I don’t know. For heaven’s sake! I am sixty-five years old, and have always been an introspective, thoughtful person. It would be highly unlikely that I would, for instance, be suddenly aware that, “Oh my gosh, I AM a good person…I HAVE made a difference…” so, I just abbreviated the list aspect, and had a little fun with it. The one incident with my daughter happened more than twenty years ago, and I still feel proud of myself for heading to Texas to try to fix things, so it was a good example. Thanks for your comments!

  2. you found a great example with your daughter and the power of ‘just’ being there for someone but specifics are a bit of a hard nut and we don’t as in women don’t generally quantify the world in this manner. having said that Cindy you make great lists . for me it is the little things you mention – here is where we can make a difference in others lifes.
    ‘each are easy’ – yes and no – these little things require an awareness, they require a sight to see that an offering can be made in that moment , they require a compassion an open heart a selflessness and I suggest Cindy that rather then thoughtless they are actually very thought full. like you I have noted how much these small kindnesses received have meant to me – in those times of difficulty or uncertainty …this is the power of who we are-

    • “Thoughtless” is, I guess, kind of an odd way to put it. I meant that those are things I do without forethought or intent; after many years of making them a practice, they come naturally to me. But, yes, they are thoughtful and, from my own experience, I know they can make a big impact. Thank you for reading, and for your kind comments!

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