By Lisa Zaccagnini
“We’re given a choice in our lives, to make things better, or worse, or merely endure like sheep. I choose to make things better, as much as I can.”
Mercedes Lackey, Fortune’s Fool.
How Can You be a Difference Maker?
It has been quite a ride these past 384 days, as of this writing, and it feels like the world is spinning out of any familiar kind of control, be it perceived control or real control. Ideas like illogical thinking and behaving, hate, disillusionment, the absence of kindness, lack of compassion, the ill treatment of fellow human beings, etc. I could go on and on. The stuff nightmare movies are made of and we are living it out in all its ugly colors.
I have always been the kind of person who seeks fairness. It was a tough pill to swallow the first time my father said, “Life isn’t fair. You have to live by the values that matter most to you and not worry about what other people are doing.” In this world today, it is very hard to not worry about what other people are doing or saying but, OK, I’ll play. So, I ask myself every single day, how can I maintain my core values knowing that I am probably, right now, the minority in the sea of people and not the norm in the crowd? How can I not worry about what other people are doing when I feel so lost and like I don’t matter? What could I possibly do to make my world around me, from my personal perspective feel more like the world I need to feel safe in, to feel whole in, to feel in control?
I try not to watch the news on TV, I would much rather read, but I can’t avoid the news completely. I compromise by listening to Pete Dominick on NPR, I compromise by reading snippets of news feeds from my phone as it is interspersed with fun news, I compromise by paying attention to what my children bring up about their view about the world and educate myself on the issues that personally affect them. A good citizen doesn’t bury his/her head in the sand, but breaks up the bad into more digestible pieces. I can’t help but entwine my knowledge with my desire for fairness (still) and hope that my children’s hearts will stay open despite the ugly that surrounds them out in the world. So again, I ask myself, what can I really do to right my world so that I can function and not fall apart?
After long, long endless days of thinking and searching, I heard a trusted friend speak recently about getting some peace back into our lives by being a difference maker. What does that really mean though? I hate politics so I won’t become a policy maker or run for office, I don’t believe our vote really counts on election day so I waver from one year to the next whether to cast my vote for anything, I am not a surgeon, I am not a lawyer, I am not an engineer or a builder. These professions are difference making professions in my mind.
But then as I listened deeper, I began to realize that every day in small bite size ways, like the way I approach the news, I can make a difference. I can gain a sense of control and I can try today, to matter.
“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.”
Robert F. Kennedy
Here are ways that I realized just how I am already righting my wrong world and making a positive difference:
When I make dinner and there are leftovers for my family to take for lunch the next day. It means they don’t have to spend money on lunch food and can now choose to spend that money on something else or save it. The happiness and satisfaction they hopefully feel in that one act of not worrying about lunch means that they feel freer to relax and spread their joy to others simply by behaving more relaxed and satisfied, whether they realize this feeling or not.
I can make a difference in my every day in small ways when I bake treats for co-workers and share my joy of baking.
I can be a positive difference maker when I volunteer anywhere I might be of help. Or when I donate to a charity or when I wear the hat of teacher, mentor or emotional support.
I can make a difference in my every day in small ways when I take the time to write to you and include you in my epiphanies and discoveries and silly thoughts.
I can make a difference in my every day in small ways when I run errands for my neighbor.
I can make a positive difference in my every day in small ways when I choose compassion over frustration.
I can be a difference maker when I take the time to ask everyone I interact with, “What can I do for you today?”
I can be a difference maker when I honor someone’s birthday or achievement in my own special way by making them feel special.
I can make a difference in my every day in small ways when I eliminate personal frustration by cleaning, whether it be through my professional organizing and helping clients or cleaning a room that needs attention. The instant gratification from cleaning helps me take a deep cleansing breath and everyone around me will be happier and calmer for it.
I can be a positive difference maker by sitting at a 4 way stop sign and letting others go ahead of me. Maybe that one gesture made it so that that person got to the hospital on time to see a loved one.
I can be a difference maker today simply by being decisive and not wishy-washy about an issue.
I believe in work. If somebody doesn’t create something, however small it may be, he gets sick. An awful lot of people feel that they’re treading water — that if they vanished in smoke, it wouldn’t mean anything at all in this world. And that’s a despairing and destructive feeling. It’ll kill you.”
“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.”
R. Buckminster Fuller
There have been many, many times in my life where I have felt like I don’t matter and that has led to feeling so out of control. Our world today makes it so easy for any of us to feel like we don’t matter but we do, we really do. By greeting every new day believing that today you can be a difference maker in some small way, that you can affect positively the life of someone, helps to create a ripple of kindness and goodness and hope; it is empowering and uplifting and you can control that moment and for that one moment you matter. I wonder how many difference making moments we can each create?
Call to Action
Tell me about a time, past or present, when you felt like you made a difference.
In what ways does the idea of being a difference maker hold you back from making a difference?
What adjectives would you use to describe how you feel when you go from feeling like you don’t matter to then realizing oh yes you do matter?