COMMENTARY: Making a Difference – Being Nice & Talking to People

What can be more meaningful and fulfilling than making a positive difference in this world by making a difference in the lives we touch? It is the essence of living a life that matter. As the following story illustrates it is so much easier than it we might think and its something we all can do every day of the year.

Marta was a hard-working single mother. When her minister sermonized about “living a life that matters,” she worried that working to raise her kids and going to church wasn’t enough. So, on the bus to work she made a list of other jobs she could do and volunteer work she could try.

Sylvia, an elderly woman, saw the worry on Marta’s face and asked what was wrong. Marta explained her problem. Sylvia said, “Oh my, did your minister say youweren’t doing enough?”


“No,” Marta said, “But I know I’m not living a life that matters and i want to.”

“You don’t have to change jobs or do more volunteer work,” Sylvia consoled her. “It’s enough that you’re a good mother. But if you want to do more, think about what you can do while doing what you already do. It’s not about what you do, but how you do it.

“You don’t understand,” Marta said. “I sell hamburgers. How do I make that significant?”

“How many people do you deal with every day?” Sylvia asked.

“Two to three hundred.”

“Well, what if you set out to cheer, encourage, teach or inspire as many of those people as you could? A compliment, a bit of advice, a cheerful hello or a warm smile can start a chain reaction that lights up lives like an endless string of Christmas bulbs.”

“But that’s just being nice,” Marta protested.

“Right,” said Sylvia, “Niceness can change lives.”

Marta looked at the old woman. “What do you do?”

“I was a housekeeper until I retired,” Sylvia said. “Now I just ride the bus talking to people.”

Sylvia made a difference in Marta’s life simply by helping her look at things differently so the next day at work she went out of her way to encourage others with a kind word. Her goal was to make someone feel good about themselves and smile. She particularly began to enjoy the moments when someone actually said thank you and she got better at it.

Toward the end of the first day of her campaign to make a difference through kindness she saw a woman in line holding a baby in one arm and struggling to keep her two other children in control. She was clearly frazzled when she got to Marta’s window to order her food. Marta said, “I couldn’t help but notice that you are an extraordinary mother. It is so clear you are worn out but your love for your children and your consideration for others is amazing. Thank You.”

The mom’s face changed almost instantly and she replied, “I can’t tell you how much that means to me. You have made my day.” After another moment she added, “no you didn’t just make my day, you affirmed my life. Thank you.”

Marta was filled with a sense of gratitude and she couldn’t wait to tell Sylvia on the bus ride home.

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