January 2 - How Can I Make a Difference?



I often hear my friends doubting that they can make a difference.

“What can I do?” they say. “I don’t see how I can make a difference with my life at all.” I understand these thoughts, far too well. For most of my life I believed that I didn’t matter, that I couldn’t make a difference either. For years as a child, I had tried to make a difference in my family, but nothing I did, and nothing I said, brought about the change I so desperately wanted. I wanted my father not to drink alcohol and get mean. I didn’t know how to accomplish that.

Somehow, I came to believe that because I couldn’t help my father stop drinking, I couldn’t help anyone. I thought I didn’t do anything well enough . . . I didn’t write well enough; I didn’t speak well enough; I didn’t know enough, period!

I shared these thoughts often with a group of my very good friends. They told me that I needed to step out of my small circle and help others with what I knew. It was difficult for me to believe them, but I kept trying. One of the men in the group, Ron, was a talented writer, but he didn’t quite believe it about himself either.

When he worked at a large corporation, he used to send out inspirational writings to his coworkers, and they always looked forward to receiving them. He had saved all of these writings, but now that he was retired, he hesitated to offer them to the world. It was easy for me to see how he could make a difference but impossible for me to translate that to my own life. We gave each other books on writing . . . we even tried to inspire each other with late night emails. Our spouses encouraged both of us as well, as they heard life calling to us before we did. Every once in a while we would whisper that one day, we might just possibly even begin to think about writing a book...just maybe.

Then my friend was faced with the battle of his life, a battle against colon cancer. Thankfully, he won the battle that his father had lost, and life looked different for a long while. He and his beautiful wife moved to Hilton Head to relish life together by the beach. We stayed in touch, but not often enough, as happens far too frequently in this busy world. One day, I received an email message from him. “Go to this link,” he said, “and you might be surprised!” I clicked on the link and to my delight, there he was, offering his life and wisdom to others. AOL had even selected his journal as the top site of the week! I literally danced with joy!

When I wrote to congratulate him, I also wrote him about eClubSoda, and before I knew it, we were mentioned on his website. I didn’t even know until I read his journal that day that he had witnessed the effects of the disease of alcoholism in his father’s family. It can be such a small world sometimes. I wonder what it would be like if friends and acquaintances shared this intimately more often? What kind of support could we then be for each other?

Sometimes we have places to travel before we are ready to express our gift to the world. But just as Ron and I find ourselves typing way past midnight on our friendly computers, you too will find your niche someday as well. Know that you are on the right road, doing your research, even when you don’t know exactly what road you are on. Ron and I are rooting for you . . . we both know if we can do it, so can you!

What do you know that you love to do, even though you may not think you do it well? What are you learning to do today that you will need to know in order to make a difference in the lives of others tomorrow? How can you take what has brought you great pain and offer it as a gift to the world? What steps can you take to break through thelegacy of fear and step into your life of purpose?

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