[I’ve discussed this topic before but it keeps popping up everywhere in conversation so I am addressing it again and expanding some different aspects of i.t]
People are looking for purpose in their lives. I hear many of them say that they wish to make a difference in the world. Many times they say it as if they can’t. Or that whatever they do has to be of epic proportions. Or as if it is something they aren’t ready for just quite yet.
Chances are if everyone took a look at who made a difference in their life, or looked at the people around them, those that have done the most good are not the people who are labeled heroes. They aren’t famous. They aren’t considered the movers and the shakers. They’re just an average Jane or Joe living their life and treating others as if they matter.You can change peoples lives by treating them like they matter. Click To Tweet
I have heard many people say that it is often the smallest acts of a kindness that bring about the biggest emotional responses.
This anecdotal evidence points to the fact that anyone is then capable of also making a difference. We don’t have to do anything special to achieve that, other than to be kind and act in a kind way.
Bloom Where You Are Planted
Basically, this means that there are things you can do to help right from where you are. No matter what your circumstances are, no matter what skill set you have. You can make a difference just by being you. This can manifest in a lot of different ways.
Everyone has skills. They are all important in some way. When you use the skills to help someone else you are making a positive impact in their lives.
Can you cook? There is probably someone in your life going through a crisis who doesn’t have the time or energy but still needs to feed themselves and/or their family.
Are you compassionate? There are a lot of lonely people looking for a connection. A hug. A smile. A conversation. Most of us can do that.
Do you know how to use tools? People need things fixed and they may not have this skill set or money to hire someone to take care of it.
Are you an IT genius? So many of us are not. Sometimes what seems a simple fix for you is deliverance to those who don’t understand things like “the cloud”.
Are you tall? The vertically challenged demographic can recognize everyday acts of heroism just by taking care of things in your higher stratosphere.
Are you good at organizing? Are you good at DIY projects? Can you run an errand? Are you strong? Do you have connections and can you make introductions?
Everybody can do something.
I have a neighbor, Miss Shirley, who is 83 years old and has a riding mower. We live in the suburbs with postage stamp yards so most of the neighbors do not have a need for a riding mower but Miss Shirley LOVES to cut grass and insists on cutting her own grass and that of her 4 of her neighbors, of which, we are one of the lucky few. Now, sometimes it seems to be unseemly to have a ‘gardner’ that is old enough to be your mother or grandmother. And we are more than capable of doing it ourselves but we are all young(er) with busy careers and her doing this one little act saves us a ton of time and energy. She does it because she enjoys it and it is her way of doing what she can. She is truly a blessing because now the time we would have spent on the lawn is spent on other pressing matters. The act of taking something off our to-do list is a great stress reliever.
Now, sometimes it seems to be unseemly to have a ‘gardner’ that is old enough to be your mother or grandmother. We are more than capable of doing it ourselves but we are all young(er) with busy careers and her doing this one little act saves us a ton of time and energy. She does it because she enjoys it and it is her way of doing what she can. She is truly a blessing and she makes a difference in our world. The act of taking something off our to-do list is a great stress reliever.
We all have relationships. Hopefully the majority of them are healthy. We can start with the people we know in making a difference. No need to go looking for the poor, the tired, and the huddled masses. Some are in our backyard.
[If we all took care of each other and made a difference for those around us, I hypothesize that the need for entitlement programs and nonprofits would go down….hmmmm….maybe we should try that experiment]
Most often the best thing we can do is be observant and see where we can fill a need. Sometimes a little tweak is all that is needed to completely change a situation.
Maybe someone isn’t feeling well. Take note and help out. Dinner, take the kids, run to the store, anything that lets them rest and get better.
Maybe someone is overworked. Give them a break- wine or beer on the patio could give them enough time to recharge their batteries.
I had noticed that one particular person in my sphere of influence wasn’t getting the information we were trying to get to them about important matters- like life and death kind of important matters. Unknown to me, there was a communication breakdown somewhere in the grapevine. I patched up the grapevine by ‘adopting’ them and taking responsibility to adding them to my ‘vine’. With almost no effort whatsoever it solved the problem. Now everyone is on the same page and life is less complicated.
It can also be as simple as nurturing your relationships.
We all have that mutual mooching relationship, where we can borrow from each other with equal reciprocity. Don’t abuse it. Make sure you are a much a giver as a taker. Return things in good condition. Make sure you show your gratitude.
When it comes to those you mentally and spiritually support (the ones you would hide the body for…just laugh, you know what I mean) it is even more important that it is not a one sided relationship. Make sure you are keeping your end of the deal. It’s never tit for tat. It’s always, especially when the s*** hits the fan.
When it comes to nurturing relationships I am also an advocate of ‘making the first move’. Don’t wait for someone to ask for help, try to offer it first. And offer it in a meaningful way. “Let me know if you need anything” can be a genuine offer but more often than not it has overtones that read like, “I’m offering but I am hoping you don’t actually give me a call”. Try to offer something specific or say “I’m not sure what you need so I am just going to do X, Y, Z unless you would rather I do something else?”
I’ve discussed the power of noticing before as well and can’t stress it enough. Start noticing the people who pass by you every day. You may not know them. You may not know what battles they are fighting. You can notice if they are in need.
Step in and help if there is something you can do to improve the situation. That little interaction will have a large ripple affect later in their day.
Smile and say hello. I know many of us have our own insecurities that prevent us from doing this regularly. Step out of your comfort zone and try it for one whole day. I think you’d be surprised at how much this helps your own attitude for the day.
Eventually you will realize that your efforts are making a difference from right where you are. Take those efforts and expand them when you are able, but start with one. Make a difference for one person today. Then one tomorrow. Then the next day. And the next.
By the end of the year you will have made a difference for 365 people. How can you not smile about that???
Photo Credit: Gabriel Millos
Your Turn: How do you make a difference? How do you bloom?