Saturday, December 5, 2009

What Difference do YOU Make?

Maybe it's the holiday season, but there seems to be a recent trend toward focusing on the positive differences that we as people make. I think this is a great thing, natch, but it's harder to do than you'd think, scary as that is.

One of my internet connections, Erinn, has started a blog focusing on being nice to strangers, and it's really very interestng. Honestly, I'm pretty much in awe of her for the amazing and original ideas she's come up with and her reactions to how they go over. Very thought-provoking.

What's kind of ironic is that, completely unintentionally, the weekly paper topic I gave my students last week was, "What Difference do YOU Make?" It seemed like a good thing to get them thinking about, but it combined with Erinn's blog experiment really got me thinking instead (amazing how that happens sometimes :)).

What occurred to me is how difficult it is to make a concerted effort to be nice ... and that kind of bothered me about myself. Part of me was like, "Hey, you get a pass, you teach high school students every day, there's no question that you make a difference," but I honestly felt like that's kind of a cop-out. It might be true, but it's still a cop-out. After all, I am paid to make a difference to my students--isn't there more I should do in reality?

So in that vein, I thought I found a golden opportunity when I saw a woman with a cane while at Rite Aid getting poster board and markers for Addie's Biology project. I should probably mention that it's snowing like nobody's business, the plow trucks aren't really out in full force, and the driving is horrible ... and the floor of Rite Aid was so wet and slippery that it brought ice skates to mind. Anyway, I pretty much stalked this poor woman on my quest to help her.

I don't know what I was thinking, just that maybe she'd need help carrying things or something ... epic fail, as Addie would say. I ended up dropping everything I was carrying and nearly knocking her over with my klutziness. So I went to grab some stuff in the grocery section, and we met again at the cash register ... at which point she looked at me, looked at the cashier, and said, "I think I'll let this lady go ahead of me."

Wow. I felt like a complete idiot. She was very polite about it, but I was clearly rebuffed. And then I got all pissed off at myself for having the mindset that a woman would need help just because she had a cane, and ...

Clearly I'm just not good at making a difference in reality. This is something I will be working harder on. It's something I hope all of you will think about, since I think the world would be so much more beautiful if everyone gave just a little bit more thought to others.

I'd love to hear from you, though--what difference do YOU make? I'm curious to see if the implementation of a simple and beautiful idea is as difficult for others as it is for me : )