Monday, February 8, 2010

Billy Jim and the Absence of Hermeneutics of Given Names

My senior year of high school I was walking down the halls of the rival across town and came across a poster with a little quote on it. I laughed, pointed it out to a friend, they laughed, and we continued on.

Somehow that quote has always stuck with me. Maybe because of its strange failure to say what it tries to say, or maybe because I couldn't help but recognize the power in the haphazard words.

The quote?

Act as if what you do makes a difference.
~William James

Now, don't you see what I'm saying? It carries a connotation that what you do WON”T matter. Ever.

For quite some time I'd felt that way – that nothing matters in the end. That everything will work out the way it's supposed to, regardless of your role in it all.

This week, a good friend posted almost the same quote. Almost. She included a two-word tag line that I'd never seen before. Her inclusion? “It Does.”

Now it says, “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

I'm not saying that anything I do has made a difference in other people's lives, maybe it has but sometimes I just don't want to know. But I know that whenever I try to make a difference in someone's life, the difference has been made in mine.

Earlier this week i was reminded of this by an unwitting friend. He'd alluded to a painful Monday, I offered some solace. Instead of turning his day around, he turned my entire week. All we did was share a cup of hot cocoa and some words of empathy and encouragement. But afterward I was reminded that there is hope in my life as I expressed hope in his. That things aren't as bad as they seem now. That I don't have to be caught up in myself.

This wasn't the first time either. I went to Romania to hold babies that needed love. I wanted to make their lives better if only in a small way. While doing so I held a one year old girl whose functionality was as advanced as a newborn's. She couldn't even control her eyes. As i sang to her, trying to soothe her fussing, she'd only respond to the primary songs of my own childhood. I sang one line: I am a child of God, his promises are sure. Celestial glory shall be mine, if I can but endure. As the phrase ended, her eyes flipped up, gazing into mine. Peacefulness spread through my chest and tears sprang to my own eyes. She knew.

Because of this one little girl and my two weeks of holding her close, I've taken classes I'd never have thought about before, I've chosen a major I'd never considered, and I have direction in my life.
I'd not have all of this if it weren't for my trying to make someone's life better. Someone's life was bettered. Mine.

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.