What Keeps You From Making a Difference?

FireI vividly remember a conversation that I had with one of my classmates in high school. Okay, so I don’t remember the whole thing. But I remember something I said, and it’s stuck with me. We were chatting outside of our English class, waiting for the teacher to unlock the door. We were talking about something deep, like the meaning of life or why it’s worth getting up in the morning or something. Lest you think I’m joking, think about what you know about me. I’m quite serious when I say I was having that conversation with someone before my English class in high school. I’m that bad at small talk.

Anyway, he basically asked me what I wanted to be known for when life was over and done. I told him, “I want to be known as someone who left the world just a little bit better than I found it.” I meant it then, and the statement is true today. It’s almost like I am compelled to do what I can to help other people be all that they can be. I want to encourage, inspire, motivate, and empower others. I want to work for the good of my community, wherever I’m living. I don’t want to be stuck in a place that feels safe or comfortable, because I don’t believe there’s much living worth doing inside one’s comfort zone.

I’ve got a whole faith basis for doing what I do and doing it the way I do, and I don’t want to discount that. Unfortunately, I tend to forget far too easily the hope that this faith professes. Rather, I just don’t remember how much powerful hope can make as I pursue my goal to leave the world a better place. Yet in all of this, I still have dark days when I believe the lie that nothing I do makes a difference, that I’m not actually making the world a better place. Sometimes I even believe there isn’t a place for me to fill in this world. In the last 10 years especially, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like I don’t belong. Recently I stumbled across this quote from Kellie Elmore- When YOU stop believing one person in the world cannot make a difference; differences in the world will be made.”

There’s a legitimate point there, and I’m trying to embrace it. I’m working to be a leader in this community and make good on my intentions to leave the world a better place, even though I have no intentions of departing from it any time soon. Even as I take steps to make a difference and to believe that I can, there are always obstacles to be faced. It’s never going to be easy to do good, meaningful work, especially on any kind of large scale. I believe it’s worth it-all this work and effort- and I have to take time to reflect back on the things I have done in my past that have made a difference, and use those as proof as I move forward that I’m capable of making a difference and doing things that matter.

One quarter in college, I led two very different activities for some girls in my life. First we had a tea party with cucumber sandwiches, salmon rounds, and a tea buffet. We dressed up and nibbled on tasty treats as we talked about life. Three weeks later I took these same girls camping, some of whom had never slept in a tent before. For one weekend, we slept in tents, hiked, and made kabobs on a grill. We saw some small rodents, a deer, and a rattlesnake. I figure that if I made that happen with a little planning and an enthusiastic plea for the outdoor life, I’ve already made the world better. Days are passing though, and there’s still much to be done.The road signs pointing to “Better” show that I’m still far from where I want to be, but it’s nice to know that I’m headed in the right direction.

What’s your stumbling block to making a difference? Do you struggle with self-doubt like I do, or is there something else in your life that makes it hard for you to do the things you really want to do? How do you stay motivated to press on even when things are tough?

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