Monday, July 07, 2008

Do You Make A Difference In The World?

I had a mostly quiet and very appreciated long weekend. That extra day off seems to make all the difference in the world. Most weekends seem rushed and busy as I feel forced to cram in all my personal chores and obligations. Yes, my own children are grown up and require little from me but now I have a granddaughter that I want to spend time with plus three elderly parents, two of whom are in retirement/nursing homes. Its not that I mind having obligations. I want to do the right things and to be what I should be for those in my life. Its just that sometimes I feel squashed by time restraints. I'm sure some of you, especially if you are my age and have similar obligations, know what I mean.

It was a good and balanced weekend. I spent time with myself, my immediate family, some of my extended family, and my father. My father is in a new nursing home and I went there for the first time yesterday. It seemed like a very acceptable place as far as nursing homes go. It isn't as big or as fancy as the last one but when you are in my father's condition most of that is a illusion that doesn't really mask the fact that these places are full of people in their last days and most of them would love to fast forward the end. As I sat in the dining room while my youngest brother fed my father, one of the other elderly people kept yelling out. Another elderly person kept telling them to "shut up"! Later, as I stood outside my father's room with my brother as the nurses attended to him, the man across the hall wheeled out of his room. My brother and I said "Good afternoon"! He looked at both of us and responded "Whatever"! At the other end of life, my weekend was also filled with the joy, wonder, energy, and occasional tantrums of my four year old granddaughter. She tried my patience a couple of times but I quickly forget that when she sits on the kitchen counter scooping coffee into the coffee filter to "make coffee for you, Pa Paw" or when she puts her little hand on my shoulder shaking me awake early in the morning and greeting me with a smile that melts my heart. I live somewhere in the middle of these bookends of my life. Both bring tears to my eyes. I have the joy of a beautiful granddaughter on one side and the sadness of my father on the other side.

Over the weekend a local activist, that I have always considered the Martin Luther King, Jr. of Louisville, died unexpectedly. He name was Rev. Louis Coleman. I never met him although I had seen him in public. I admired him from a distance. He was a person loved by many but who agitated and annoyed many more. Of course, this is what prophets do. He didn't completely change the world, or even my city, but he did make a difference. After hearing the news of his death I found myself asking the question, "Do I make any difference in this world"? We should all be asking ourselves this question. Admittedly, we are not all called to be political activists or prophets but I do think all of us are called to make a difference in the world. Some people make the world a worse place for others but, hopefully, most of us make the world a better place. Perhaps we won't change the world or end up in a history book but we can make a difference in the lives of the people we touch. I am just an average person living a mostly quiet and uneventful life. In spite of that I sometimes wonder how many lives I have touched in 57 years of living. In how many of these lives have I made a difference? In some lives I may have made a difference and not even been aware of it. Sometimes you make a difference and you know it. A close friend once said to me, "You have so enriched my life". I'm not completely sure how I have done that but it makes me happy that I have. We are all catalysts for goodness and for making a difference. There are many little things you can do. A kind word and a smile are excellent places to start. As I have written before, I believe an exchange of energy occurs when two people encounter one another. You either give positive energy to another or you may suck the life right out of them. A good way to make a difference is to be positive and optimistic and hopeful and life giving to those you meet and not just to the people you care about. Some of us may be called to be prophets like Rev. Coleman but it's not fun being a prophet. Most of them get killed because people don't want to hear what they have to say. There are times, however, when even the meekest of us are called to speak out and give voice to the truth even if it does make others uncomfortable. I can't remember who said it but somewhere I read "It's better to be a lion for a day than a sheep for your whole life". If you're not making a difference in the world, today's a good day to start.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading this post. And the question you posed is a great one for all of us to ask ourselves: Do I make a difference in the world? I believe we all have unlimited potential to make positive changes in the world. I read often about "servicing others" without expectation for anything in return, but to do it instead wholeheartedly. Sometimes, however, my ego gets in the way and there will be negative self-talk. It's up to me to change that. Okay, just thought I'd share that with you!