Monday, February 21, 2011

Making a Difference- Easier Than You Think

I confess that I often get a bad case of the “don’t-want- tos” when I’m getting ready for work in the morning. Especially now that the weather is cooler, it is so tempting to stay home in my “pj”s. So what motivates me to don my “business casual” attire, apply makeup and drive into the city? The prospect of a paycheck is a large part of it. Even more important though, is the thought that I might actually make a difference. It is satisfying to think that what I do might make someone else’s day a little brighter in some way.
Outside of our working life, we are constantly asked to help others. When we watch the news and hear of so many folks who need so much help we can be easily overwhelmed. My watchword in this case comes from an expert at making a difference, JoAnn Cayce of Thornton. Her advice to me: “Honey, just do what you can.”
Think for a moment about what you are already doing. Is there a particular charity that “has your number” and calls you year after year because they can depend on you to give at least a little? Did you ever walk around the downtown area of a nearby city with 40,000 of your closest friends in support of brave cancer survivors? Do you give to your local church? See, you are already in the habit of being helpful.
I think making a difference becomes a mindset. It’s a natural reaction of a grateful heart. We are so blessed that we can’t help sharing with others. There are so many opportunities, especially with the holidays approaching. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with checking out a charity before you give. After all, you want to be sure that your gift will really reach someone who is really in need. Sometimes the grass-roots organizations are the best. In Saline County, the Churches Joint Council on Human Need operates a food pantry, and also helps promote a drive to collect warm coats each year. One of my favorite charities asks me to simply mail some letters to a few friends, asking for a donation. I like this much better than the traditional “door to door” approach, and although I don’t have huge results, it does generate a little bit for medical research.
Your time can be even more valuable than your money. So many organizations can use your talents, and provide you with a feeling of satisfaction for a job well done. Organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, Civitan, and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are always looking for people with big hearts and willing hands. Volunteering can enrich so many lives, including your own.
On a smaller scale, we can watch for opportunities in our everyday life. Did someone need a hand holding a door, or carrying a package? Could you afford to pay for a cup of coffee for the guy behind you in line? Each courtesy we extend to others just warms our own hearts.
I remember a story that a former Miss Saline County shared with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop years ago. I’ve seen it in different forms on the Internet, and it has a wonderful message. It goes something like this:
A child was walking along the beach, and noticed hundreds of starfish washed up on the sand. The tide was going out, and she knew that if these little animals didn’t make it back into the water, they would die. She began picking them up, one by one, and tossing them as far out to sea as she could. A man walked by and pointed out that there were hundreds, and she couldn’t possibly save them all.
His question to the little girl: “What does it matter?”
Her reply: “It matters to this one” as she stooped to pick up another starfish, “It matters to this one,” throwing it toward the ocean with all of her strength. “It matters to this one.”
Your efforts do make a difference. Just watch for opportunities, and do what you can.
I’d love to hear about what you do, and how it makes you feel. Write to me in care of Ouachita Life, or leave a comment on my blog at

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