The Difference is Why

IMG_6701When I first moved into my neighbourhood, I would often walk the streets with my young son picking ‘bunny’s tails’ along the footpath and waving to the familiar and not so familiar faces.

We would regularly pass an older couple outside their house. She was a sweet, softly spoken lady, he an ageing man with wit and charm quickly at hand.

I only knew them to say hello, but when we had a bumper zucchini crop in the backyard vegie patch, it was a chance to formalise the relationship. Armed with a bazooka-sized zucchini and an excited toddler, we rang their doorbell to deliver the spoils.

I’m not sure what urged me to do this, but it was one of those spur of the moment decisions that paid off. We have since forged a beautiful friendship, punctuated by random acts of kindness.

Making a difference in our often complicated world is not always evident. Going out of our way for others sometimes isn’t acknowledged or even favoured.

As a friend lined up in the rain to vote at the recent Federal election, she saw two elderly people taking shelter while they waited for the rain to subside before joining the queue. She offered them a spot in front of her as she neared the front of the line.

This considerate act was not met with support from those around her, but contempt that aged people should take precedence over others.

In these situations, it’s easy to wonder why we should bother going out of our way. But the difference of our actions can be far greater than we will ever realise and this is why we should continue to make the effort.

My former primary school principal – Sr Marg was recently recognised for a lifetime of commitment and service to her faith and community. Her career evolved from teaching, to working with incarcerated and homeless women.

In her address at an honourary afternoon tea, she relayed the story of an inmate who had asked her for a letter of support to the parole board. She was regularly asked by inmates to do this and she was happy to oblige. Upon asking the lady what credentials she had obtained during her time served, she responded that her favourite was a catering and hospitality certificate. It was an opportunity that she had to put her skills into practice that had made the difference to her.

A socially conscious politician had organised a group of prisoners to cater and serve at a conference she was hosting. At the end of the conference, each of the inmates was presented with a signed and framed certificate of appreciation. This lady had never been recognised in such a way and it had changed her forever.

Sr Marg continued, recalling the countless nights she had visited the regular haunts of the port city picking up women who were looking for a safe place to sleep. Along with another Sister, she would offer these women a lift back to a refuge where a meal, a warm shower, clean nightwear and crisp bedsheets would await.

She read a heart warming letter from a beneficiary of this kindness who had since gotten her life back on track. This lady hadn’t forgotten the goodwill nor the difference it had made to steering her in the right direction, simply from knowing that someone cared.

Sr Marg’s departing words came from a reflection by James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)
“The kind of world one carries about in one’s self is the important thing, and the world outside takes all its graces, colour and value from that!”

Such simple words and the scenarios she described reminded me to think about the way I look at the world. To remember that it doesn’t take much to change someone’s day or even their life. That the little things can be just as important as the big things and…that you really can make a difference.

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