Reality Check: What makes a difference?

Do you want to make a difference? When asked about their purpose or goals in life, many will answer with some variation of, “I want to make a difference and do something that matters.”
Often, that wish is connected to helping others—to direct one’s energies toward something longer-lasting and bigger than oneself.
That’s all reasonable. An altruistic purpose can be satisfying for the individual and it might even be helpful for society.
However, so often, the sticky part of a lofty goal is in the details. How, exactly, might you make a difference? How big a difference do you need to make? What specific difference are you aiming for?
Those details can be daunting. Maybe you feel that you don’t know exactly what you were put on this earth to do. You may feel certain that your purpose will become clearer to you, after a while. You just don’t know what it is right yet.
When one doesn’t quite know what to do, it’s easy to delay taking any action at all.
Yet, if we wait till we know our perfect purpose, we may be missing opportunities to fulfill purposes that are not dramatic and perfect, but simply good.
An example that I came across recently reminded me that small good acts can make a big positive difference.
Dr. Belinda George, an elementary school principal in Texas, gets into her pajamas on Tuesday evenings and reads live to her students via facebook.
Now, I am not a great fan of technology as a substitute for face-to-face relationships. However, I do respect that technology can make it possible to develop relationships that would otherwise not happen. Such is the case here.
How does reading children’s stories on facebook make a difference?
Dr. Glasser, in choice theory, says we are social beings. Each of us has a need for love and belonging. When we believe that someone cares about us, our lives are more satisfying than if we believe that we are all alone in the world.
He also suggests that fun is the genetic reward for learning. When we learn, we have fun, which gives us that added motivation to learn some more!
Yet there are plenty of unhappy kids (and adults) attending schools who don’t seem to have quite gotten the message that learning is fun! If anything, their experience might be leading them to believe that fun is what you have after learning, when you’re all done and can finally put away the books for the day.
What’s the long-term prospect for a child (or an adult) who gives up because they can’t read as well as their peers? Compare that to the prospect of one who persists through difficulty.
Persistence may make the difference between having a child who drops out of school versus one who continues. It’s the difference between having an education, a career, a life where you are accountable and responsible for yourself and your family, versus one where you believe the deck is stacked against you.
Education can make the difference between achievement and resentment.
When asked about why she reads these bedtime stories, Dr. George said, “Anything I can do to build relationships…If a child feels loved they will try.”
I’d extend that to, “If a person feels loved, they will try.”
So, if you have the worthy goal of making a difference, then here’s a suggestion. Don’t delay your contribution till you have it perfectly figured out. Do the small positive thing.
Knowing that someone cares makes a difference. Encouragement makes a difference. Even if it has an impact on only one life, it makes a difference.
If you are interested in watching the bedtime videos, snuggle up to facebook and search for Homer Drive Elementary.
Do you want to make a difference?

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