The IF in Difference

Monday Author: Susanne Skinner

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.  ~ William James

We live in a world that bombards us with information. Multiple social media platforms, 24-hour news channels and the internet guarantee that nothing slips by unnoticed. This kind of reality creates a level of skepticism and desensitization that creeps up on us. Before we know it, images and words become background noise that fail to get our attention. We see it, we hear it, and we remain unmoved or worse—we feel helpless. The sheer magnitude of fixing, changing or stopping it is overwhelming unless your names are Bill and Melinda Gates or Oprah Winfrey.

When I look at the world this way, as a single crew member, I get an inspired perspective. What if I am the IF in difference?It’s not that we don’t care because we do. We have become immune to the idea that one person can make a difference. The problems we see are big ones, and the ability for an individual to move the needle on any given day defies most of us. Our inner self feels the need to do something while time, resources and initiative conspire against us.

Everything we think, say and do shapes the world we live in. Marshall McLuhan said, “There are no passengers on space ship Earth, we are all crew.” When I look at the world this way, as a single crew member, I get an inspired perspective. What if I am the IF in difference?

I discover that even though I am one person, there are things I can do to keep the mother ship in balance. Yes, they are small things; but small things have a way of growing and inspiring others. It’s getting started that’s hard. It’s about moving past “what if” and getting to “why not me.”

Self-doubt is often the thing that holds us back.  How can one person change anything? It is safer and easier to rail against it and wonder why someone doesn’t do something.

  • WHAT IF someone fixed that?
  • WHAT IF someone started/stopped that?
  • WHAT IF someone spoke up?
  • WHAT IF it someone tried to make a difference?

What if it’s up to you?  What if you are the someone?

It’s Up to You

Everyone has the ability make a difference; to be the enabling force behind the power of “what if.”

I always wondered by somebody didn't do something about that, then I realized I was somebody.Making a difference requires a connection to the world around you. It’s the best and only way to know where and how you can do the most good. The old “think globally, act locally” idea comes to life when we take a big issue like hunger and focus in on our own corner of the world.

A great example of this is my local food pantry. People donate regularly, but each month has a focus item. January was peanut butter and jelly month. Everyone in the community is invited to drop off one jar. The food pantry gets lots of jars – enough for fifty families – because each person makes a small difference that grows into a big one.

This month is cereal month and we get to do the same thing, except this time we drop off two boxes and include some juice boxes. That’s how it works. When you think differently, you act differently.

When a very young Steve Jobs spoke to the newly formed Macintosh design team he challenged them to “make a dent in the universe.”  It was a throw-down in the face of industry giant IBM; Steve believed he could defy their dominance in the computer industry. He made others believe it too and started a chain reaction that changed the face of technology. If you doubt that, look at your smart phone and laptop and doubt no more.

But not every effort has Apple-like results. A difference is made by one just as often as it is by many. Realizing that we are all “somebody” is our wake-up call. When we become the somebody we’ve been waiting for we give ourselves permission and power to change things; one jar of peanut butter at a time.

WHAT IF you were presented with the opportunity to be somebody that makes a difference?  What would you do? 

How About Now?

The best time to make a difference is now, but I came across a wonderful suggestion for this once-a-year effort to make a difference. I love this idea because it gives me a large window to think and plan, and maybe even recruit others.

The best time to make a difference is now, but I came across a wonderful suggestion for this once-a-year effort to make a difference. I love this idea because it gives me a large window to think and plan, and maybe even recruit others.While researching this blog, I read about Jim Ziolkowski, a man who gave up a lucrative career in finance to start buildOn, a nonprofit that runs after-school programs in disadvantaged areas across the U.S. Jim believes in making a difference with something he calls Re-think Your Birthday.

For me a birthday marks the passing of time. It makes me wonder how much of it I have left and how best to use it.  Jim sees it differently. He wants your birthday to be the day that most inspires you. What if, on that day (and you always know when it is), you set out to make a difference?  You pick the one differentiating thing you’d most like to do and then do it. Large, small or in-between—take that idea for good and turn it into action.

There will always be famous people with lots of money who build schools and fund immunization programs. Thank goodness for them. Their vision, generosity and ability to engage others like them make our world a better place.

But there will also be you and me, with our one jar of peanut butter. We make the world a better place too.

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