I thought the other day about how I could try to actually make a difference in someone’s life each day. I know this does not need to be a dramatic effort and can be as simple as a kind word to someone having a bad day – or one my favorites – when I see a real young person on a bike trail I always say “Hey, I really like your bike!” I think of how cool that must be for someone who is struggling to stay up on two wheels to have some old person compliment them on their effort.
And the point is, it really does not matter whether I actually make a difference in someone’s day or not. Rather the thing is about getting out of myself and at least attempting to connect with another human being.
Yesterday I spoke to a group of folks in a national community service project about going to graduate school when they completed their year-long project. I believe I bring a helpful perspective on this topic because I have considerable experience in the area but also do not believe graduate school is necessarily the next progressive step in life. Another perspective I bring to the discussion is one of redemption. I am able to report that checkered academic pasts can be overcome. I briefly tell my story of having an undergraduate 0.7 GPA during my first try at college, coming back 15 years later and achieve a well-funded PhD. My point being, not that I am brilliant, but that redemption is possible.
So yesterday I told this story I have told so many times and the words clearly resonate with the group. One person asks so do you think that the 15 years you took off helped you better figure out what you wanted for a career. I hesitated for a moment and then candidly replied that yes, the 15 years off did make a difference, but the biggest difference was that I quit drinking when I went back to school. My intent was not to talk about my recovery, but rather, honestly respond to a question.
After the talk was over, out of the group of 30 or so in the room, 3 folks approached me about their own addiction/recovery process and checkered academic pasts and thanked me for being truthful.
In this instance, my intent was not to “make a difference” but if I have that idea somewhere at least planted in the back of my mind, like having an “attitude of gratitude” I am better able to move in that direction.
I owe this blessing completely to being a person in recovery. There is a difference in operating from a position of grandiosity and one of truth-telling. I am grateful that recovery allows me to at least attempt to live in my truth.