Thursday, October 10, 2013

Making a Difference

Last week, I went with Jocelyn, Maritess, Tessa, and Sir Junior to run a few errands for the Foundation. One of them was inspecting an applicant, Sheryl’s, Internet and copy shop. As with most inspections, every last chair available was found for us to sit comfortably as we asked every last question about their business, personal life, current finances, and future plans. This time as Sheryl hospitably passed me a bottle of Pepsi from her sister’s adjacent sari-sari store she said, “I’m so happy you are here with us.”

The words left me speechless until I finally fumbled over, “thank you. I’m happy to be here too.” A woman, who I just met who I was basically interrogating in her second or third language, offered me the kindest words. She’ll never truly know what those words meant to me. I will also never know what impact I had on her by simply showing up, being present and taking an interest in her.

Lately, I have been asking myself some hard questions:
Why am I here? 
People are saying they are so proud of me but I feel like I haven’t actually done anything? 
Am I really making a difference? 

I shared these concerns with fellow YASCers and a few others. I received some wonderful advice and encouraging words in response.

Bishop Goff, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Virginia, advised, “Hold onto the faith that you have made a difference just by taking the journey. You’ve already made a huge difference in who you are, and you have said yes to the calling of the Holy Spirit. It is quite possible that you won’t know what this journey is all about for a long time. You may not see any difference in the community for a long time. But you are touching lives in ways you may never see. None of your faithfulness is wasted – ever. None of the sense of isolation or loneliness is wasted – ever. Just be with the people. Just love them. That is blessing enough.”

Those wonderful, wise words are stuck with me forever. Hopefully, they will stick with you too. I may see in some instances firsthand what I did to make a difference or someone may share with me the impact I had on them. However, most of us question if we are making a difference or what our purpose is.

In some cases, if you go on a mission trip and build a house or feed someone or cure an illness, you will directly see the difference that makes in someone’s life. Other times, sitting and listening with someone or sharing a smile with a stranger on the street or buying the next person’s coffee, will not show the direct impact you’ve had on him or her but it most likely made a lasting impression.

I realize I am part of culture that expects instant gratification. I’ve come to expect an immediate response via text from a friend or someone to instantly like a Facebook status or to know the latest buzzworthy story via Twitter the minute it happens. Therefore, I want to see I made the right decision by moving halfway across the world alone by seeing how I’m touching those around me instantaneously.

Although as Bishop Goff said, I may not know the purpose of this journey for a long time or never know. The impact is not always going to be revealed instantly.

Also, I need to remember making a difference doesn’t mean changing the world or finding the solution to bringing millions out of poverty. As Sheryl reminded me last week, just showing up and being present is important. Have faith that showing people love, God’s love, is enough.

The next time you take a step to make a difference, do it with faith that while you may not see the impact directly or change the lives of hundreds, thousands or millions, you’ve shown at least God’s love to one person. Your presence made a difference to someone. That’s all that matters.

A fellow YASCer, Heidi, shared with me the Starfish Story and here I share it with you:

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,

“Well, I made a difference to that one!”

The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved. - adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley

Thanks for reading!

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