Thursday, July 8, 2010
HOW DO WE KNOW
How do we know if we have made a difference? How do we know if our efforts matter?
Or do we need to know? Is it necessary to know?
I feel I am on the right path and have made a difference when I feed the wounded warriors at the Warrior Family Support Center at Brooke Army Medical Center each and every Saturday and each and every time Kelsie and I step headfirst into someone's life that is full of pain and frenzy. I know I make a difference when I have multiple other things to do and drop everything to help a friend in need. I know I make a difference when I put my head on the pillow at night and feel grateful and blessed that I have been able to change a life that day, just a little, for just a little while.
In short I make an effort each and every day to make the world just a bit better than it is. It is my sense that if I help someone, they help someone. And that help feeds upon itself and compassion then ushers in more compassion and love ushers in more love. Paying it forward! Spreading grace each and every day in some way.
In the face of catastrophic events, or even moments, I pause and wonder. I wonder about the meaning of these events in our lives. I wonder about my place in it all.
I look at my Penny's From Heaven Foundation. It is something I believe in and something to which I have given my life and energy. By training other teams of therapy dogs and owners to go out into the world and make it a better place, I am able to again pay it forward. For this I am grateful and proud.
But in the midst of the good done there is always chaos, broken promises, exhaustion, frustration, and change. This leads me to a place of insight and significant change. Socrates said that "the unexamined life is not worth living." I believe that to be true. But for today this introspection is too much for me. It is keeping me from getting on with the business of living.
I opened an email just a while ago and found a letter from a soldier - a soldier that is nourished by my omelets and a friend's hashbrowns each Saturday morning at the WFSC. He is always full of smiles and deep appreciation for this simple act of kindness. This depth of gratitude for something so basic is often overwhelming. Conversely, I see other young men and women this soldier's age, given a college education by their parents, sleeping late, no job, no desire to enter the reality of this world in any way, partying nightly, expecting the world and its benefits to be dropped into their laps without a word of thanks. Then I see America's soldiers, the same age, simply grateful to be alive, after not knowing if they would live to see another day, witnessing unspeakable atrocities while fighting and willing to die for a country they love.
The letter from 'my' soldier is personal and I feel uncomfortable sharing his words meant just for me. But the last line you need to hear. "You are my angel! I am not as alone as I have felt with your sincere hugs! I have been at some pretty deep low points and your hugs and acceptance have elevated me to a point you will never know!"
As for you, you may never know what a difference you have made. But trust me when I say, you will make a difference. For this soldier to sit down and write me, there were dozens and dozens who perhaps feel the same and don't ever verbalize it. But does it matter? Does it really matter that you know? The point is you made the effort and you know you made a difference. What does matter is that you tried, you hugged someone, you changed a life in some place at some time. It is easy. Just let your heart shine. Let your light shine.
Do you remember seeing the greeting card with a little girl sitting on a stool, her back to the camera, with her arm around a seated elephant? I feel this way some times. The need is so great with our soldiers and their pain. I simply can't get my arms around all of them to hug. There are simply too many.
But what I can do is put my arms around one and hold on tight. For in holding on tight you will make a difference. You will show someone, you perhaps will never see again, that for that moment, in that place, they were loved and cared for. What they sacrificed meant something.
As for the unappreciative youth of today, I say they are not worth my time. They just might be better off staying out of my way. There is work to be done and they are not worth my time.