Making a Difference

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

At some point in our lives, we all want to know that we have made a difference. We want to know that what we have done meant something to someone, that WE mean something to someone.  To have a legacy of meaning.  And am not talking about money or a generous estate. I mean that we have made a different in some small way, to someone, to humanity, to a garden, just something in the world≥

I think this is part of what drives us as humans, other than the need to love and be loved.  It is a part of the human condition to want to leave behind some trace that you existed, and had a positive impact on life. We strive to help others – our family, our friends, lovers, co workers, even strangers on the street.  We want to help animals, help feed the poor, create garden, build buildings, improve ‘the process” so to speak. And when we do, it is truly amazing.

In this day and age of Snapchat filters, Tinder hookups being called dating, everything big being better, and politics being why families don’t talk, can we really make any kind of impact?  Yes, I think so.  But we have to do it with love, compassion, empathy and Grace. We have to start small, helping out friends and neighbors when we can, then slowly, let it grow from there.  And maybe helping those around us, going out of our way to be available, is how to do it.

We don’t need to do giant things, when we have a million smaller tasks with which we can help. And maybe the people around us are enough.  After all, if everyone started out small and took care of those around them, then it seems like almost everyone would be covered. We do have to pay attention though.  We have to take out our headphones, look up from our phones, and be willing to not mind our own business.  It means speaking up when something is wrong and being willing to defend others. It means actually caring enough for others to make them your business.  Step away from the social media, stop taking selfies and start looking around, noticing people. That is how you start to make a difference.

And when we find out that our loved ones have made a difference, even after they are gone, it is truly an incredible and moving moment.

My parents took foster children for a number of years. We had many come through our doors and my mother loved each and every one of them. She had a gift with people in general, but especially with children.  She had the empathy and compassion to truly be able to get into their little hearts and understand them. It was a s if she could not only could walk in their shoes, but see through their eyes.

We started out as emergency shelter – which is where the children go when they are picked up, in whatever condition they are in, before they have a foster home.  Then we became a foster home.  Then, because both Mom and Dad were so gifted with children, we became a therapeutic foster home.  Which meant we would get the worst cases of abuse.  And Mom would pour her heart and soul into working with with.  You see, when you came into Mom’s home, you became one of her children. And you would be until the day she died.  She would do for you what she would do for her natural children.  No difference.

“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

One of the kids contacted me looking for her, my mother.  She wanted me tell my mother thank you for all she had done, because Mom had made a huge difference in her in life.  And I remembered this child, now a woman, and eagerly read what she wrote. She told me how my mother had bought her everything on her Christmas list, even though she left before Christmas.  How Mom picked her up at Easter for the day, and even how, after she had run away, my mother made sure she was brought back to us…and then my how my mother sat and held her, like a baby, while she cried and told Mom why she left.  This woman told me about how my father sat and listened when she told him everything she had gone through, And how he reassured her that she was just a child, and none of it was her fault. How Mom’s house was a place of love and Mom would care about her always.

And indeed Mom did.  Mom kept pictures of every child that  stayed on our home.  She knew all of their names, birthdays and stories.  And she would go through those pictures and smile as she remembered. And she remembered this lady. I remember too.

But to read everything my parents, especially my mother, did for her, was a very moving experience.  To find out that your parents made such a difference in a young life, that their love expanded so far and wide as to envelope others to such an extent, is incredible.

And I realize how blessed I was to have them as my parents, to have been taught by them, raised by them and loved by them. I can only pray that something I do will make that kind of difference in someone’s life.

We all want to know we have made a difference, contributed in some way to humanity.  And to know that our parents have is a legacy worth continuing.


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