Posts Tagged With: making a difference


It’s Gratituesday. I’m thankful for those pivotal moments in my life that have made all the difference. One in particular comes to mind today. Oddly, I don’t remember the person’s name who played such a starring role.

On a slightly overcast day nearly twenty years ago, I had just arrived at an outdoor “retreat” of sorts. Nervous and uncertain about what to expect, I stashed my luggage and showed up for the keynote speaker. Walking across a wide expanse of mowed meadow, I felt a slight hint of rain. Looking up at the clouds I wondered how the week would change if it rained instead of shined.

I soon found out.

Sweet, sugary Brach's lemon drops. Made with r...

Brach’s lemon drops, made with real lemon juice! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By the time all the participants unloaded luggage and found their way to the lodge where the keynote speaker would soon begin, the rain made itself part of the proceedings. People entered first with slightly wet heads and wiping raindrops from eyeglasses. Those who arrived a few minutes later looked disheveled, wet and somewhat wary.

The first thing the speaker said was, “Everybody stand up! Yes, everybody, even you all in the back rows.”

She waited. A few stragglers seemed reluctant to stand at which she pronounced, “The correct answer when someone asks you to do something is, ‘I’m excited about this idea!’” She smiled a big smile for a short person and said, “Let’s try again. Everybody stand up!”

Nearly everyone in the damp smelling room responded in a lackluster voice, “I’m excited about this idea.”

She laughed.

“I think we need a change of direction. Sing along if you know this one.” She then proceeded to belt out an energetic rendition that went like this.

“I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain, what a glorious feeling, I’m happy again…”

A few brave souls joined her part way through. As they did so a clap of thunder rolled across the hills outside at which a few people moaned, and a couple of people clapped. There was even a cheer or two.

When they finished singing she looked the group over and laughed again. “What was that phrase I said we should respond with?  ‘I’m excited about this idea!’”

She put her hand to her ear as she said, “Everyone sing along with me!”

“I’m excited about this idea,” the group responded.

“I can’t hear you,” she said.

“I’m EXCITED about this idea!” we all yelled back.

Then we all belted out the first few phrases of “Singing in the Rain.”

Glowing gumdrops.

Glowing gumdrops. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For good measure we did another song with actions, of sorts.  Arms spread as if welcoming a rainstorm, head back and mouth opened wide during the “ah, ah, ah” part of the song, we sang:

“If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops, oh what a rain it would be…I’d stand outside with my mouth open wide, ah, ah ah ah ah, ah ah ah ah, ah ah ah. If all the raindrops were lemon drop and gum drops oh what a rain it would be.”

I don’t remember anything more specific about that speaker, not even her name.

I’m not sure what she said. But something clicked in me. Something sparked. Some cog turned that set in motion a churning machine of interconnected wheels, chain reactions, window opening, door crashing changes.

Maybe her joyful manner, her laughter, her energy overpowering even a thunderstorm affected me. Maybe the twinkle in her eyes or the bounce in her step brought some unspoken message that only I heard.

I felt it though. I felt different. From that moment, I began to chang from a cowering, shy uncertain afraid-of-her-own-shadow ghost of myself into a full-blown, somewhat bodacious, speak my mind, belt it out loud, say what I think semi-brave woman of substance.

No, all those changes weren’t instantaneous. More like a set of dominoes aligned in an elaborate design where the little rectangles rose on steps, circled and swirled in intricate paths, I too, unconsciously began my own domino effect of growth and change.

Maybe this woman’s words or actions or attitude figuratively poured water on a seed that lay dormant under a dirt and trash covered patch of ground in me. Someone else may have laid the seed in the ground and then years later, time and opportunity and, maybe the rain that day became the catalysts. Whatever happened was pivotal.

English: Screenshot of Judy Garland performing...

Judy Garland performing Over the Rainbow for the film The Wizard of Oz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”, my life changed from black and white to brilliant Technicolor. I became excited about this idea, and excited about that idea. Left and right I saw positives around nearly every corner.

It rained that entire week. In fact it rained so long and hard that some small trickling streams became raging rivers. Thunderstorms kept us awake nights. Schedules changed and rearranged. My feet never felt dry.

But me, inside, I felt newly born in the deluge.

I ran into this woman briefly, several years later, somewhere random, and had just a moment or two to tell her, “You changed my life with a presentation you gave a few years ago.” She looked at me, confused, without a clue who I was or what she’d said or done.

“Just know,” I said as the crowd whisked me away, “that you made a huge difference in someone’s life. Thank you!”

Yup. Pivotal. Turned my life around one hundred eighty degrees.

Lucky me.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Happiness | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Little House in the Big World: It’s Not Laura’s Prairie Anymore

We moved when I was in second grade, over Christmas break.  This meant starting at a new elementary school in the middle of the year.  My world suddenly got bigger.  Instead of walking to school, I rode the bus. Instead of a traditional classroom I was in a shared classroom with multiple second grade classes sharing space barely divided by moveable walls, and small reading nooks.  The classes were on a staggered schedule, with different start and end times for various groups in the same grade.

I was one overwhelmed kid in that arena. I nearly missed the bus home the first day at that new school. Too much noise, too much input, too many kids, too much to keep track of.

Add in the fact that we hadn’t yet discovered that I needed eye glasses.  That made this new noisy world fuzzy at about five feet away in any direction.

Charles & Caroline Ingalls

Charles & Caroline Ingalls (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one thing I remember focusing in on very clearly was story time.  The teacher was reading “Little House in the Big Woods,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Mesmerized within the first paragraph or two, I sat entranced, absorbing every word. I lived for those few precious pages our teacher read to us each day.  I was so spellbound that I started reading these fourth grade level books as soon as I could talk the librarian into letting me check one out.

I loved the world Laura inhabited. Even the difficult things she dealt with didn’t deter my desire to live her life in the wild countryside.  It was a small, manageable world with daily adventures and the perils of nature and society ever-present.

Fast forward a few decades or more.

I am not naïve and brainless. I don’t spend my time watching reality TV or sitcoms. I consider myself informed, well-read, educated, literate, book smart, experienced in the school of hard knocks. I’ve lived through more than a few things, survived a few close calls, I know what real life dishes out. I’m no second grader, not any more.

Since I started blogging, my reading and learning has expanded.  It’s as if, once again, I’ve been transported to a new school, with a new curriculum, in a world that never sleeps. I’ve read blogs from all over the world, learned about things I never dreamed existed, followed the rants and responses to topics that amaze and fascinate me. CNN, BBC, NBC, PBS et al have nothing on bloggers and writers and their ability to inform, entertain, enlighten and share and touch raw nerves.

Here’s the thing.  Instead of a lovely, manageable novel or two of a tiny world, I’ve stumbled upon the entire planet. At least it seems like it.  Suddenly I am feeling guilty for the life of ease I live as I realize someone in Pakistan or Ghana or Croatia is reading my words, my life, my wonderland.  I marvel at the audacity of Americans to think they are the center of the Universe and somehow qualified to make decisions for the rest of the planet. I am breathless as I learn of tiny countries and the families and people that live day-to-day, hand to mouth, oblivious to the worries I think are important. The foundational ideas that make me who I am have developed a few hairline fissures as I’ve tried to balance other world views on the same ground.  The ridiculous and the sublime compete for my time and brainpower.

Superman logo

Superman logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hover between two desires. I want to go back to having no eyeglasses, the world a vague and fuzzy place like it was four months ago. And I want to miraculously have laser vision, a flying cape and super powers, endless resources, time and energy to save, help, lift, care for and make an impact.

There I am thinking I have something to contribute having barely skimmed the surface of information.  Silly me.

I want to go back to focusing on my tiny family of six, or my expanded family of sisters and brothers and parents, or even my extended family with cousins and aunts and uncles. I want the ease of worrying over people in my small community and trying to find time for a few friends who need a listening ear or a friendly face.

I barely manage to work, fix dinner, do laundry and keep the house clean. Occasionally I’m able to help out a friend, call a sibling, touch base with someone I feel a responsibility toward.  If I gave up sleep I still couldn’t care for all the people in my life I want to care for, love, share with and spend time around.  How can I possibly do anything with all this new information, this new sense of weight, responsibility and worry I have for the rest of the world?

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The genie can’t be stuffed back into the bottle.  And, unfortunately, I can’t make a wish and have phenomenal cosmic powers.

Here is one itty bitty woman with tiny resources, 24 hours in my day, with a new weight trying to settle in on my shoulders.

Part of me wants to disconnect from the internet, move to a distant, isolated tract of land and simply live a small quiet life.  But I can’t.  Even if I could, I couldn’t.

I’ve heard the stories, I know they’re out there. Reality is too real. I am lost and probably about to miss the bus again.

A good book isn’t going to give me a grip on anything at this point.  Maybe I just need to step back, clean off my glasses and try to pull things in to focus.

Categories: The World, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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