Recently, a friend of mine, a Marine himself, posted the following quotation by Ronald Reagan on his Facebook page: “Some people wonder all their lives if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.”
I guess some professions make it easier for people to know they’ve made a difference. But in general, I’d argue that, no matter what our jobs, we all have the chance to make a difference in the lives of others each day. The only question is whether or not we take advantage of that opportunity.
When I look back, I remember all sorts of people who made a difference in my life for simply being nicer than they had to be:
- The family who lived downstairs from me in Pennsylvania after I totaled my car the first week I was there. They offered to take me to class, to the laundromat, or to the grocery store. although they had known me for a total of four days.
- The radiologist who gave up her lunch hour so that I wouldn’t have to wait a weekend to find out if a lump were cancerous or not.
- My college algebra instructor who calmed me down when I came in late for a final exam (My roommate had moved out the day before and took the alarm clock.) “I’ll stay as long as you need,” he said as he saw the tears threatening.
Now none of these deeds will go down in the annals of history, but they all made a difference in my history. I’ve never forgotten them, and I try to pay those kindnesses forward when I can.
It’s amazing how small kindnesses are remembered. At the end of one semester, a student stopped me in front of the building. I didn’t recognize him, but he told me that at the beginning of the term, he had been totally lost and didn’t know how to log in to his courses or even find his schedule. “You showed me how,” he said, “and you were so friendly, I knew I’d have a place to go if things went wrong again. I want to thank you for that.”
And if I lost my job today, that memory would be enough.