Monday, June 20, 2011

Never Doubt that You Make a Difference

I’m guessing we pretty much all know we make a difference in the lives of the people we are closest to.  Even when they don’t tell us, we know we have an impact on parents, spouses, children, friends and co-workers.

But we make a difference in the lives of strangers as well.

Study after study shows what a huge impact we each have on the lives of others.  A smile or a frown to a stranger on the sidewalk can affect their entire day and thus the day of everyone around them.

We make a difference.

But the difference I’m thinking of today arises more out of my own passions – the things that get me up off the couch and shouting at the television or writing to an elected representative, or in my case, traveling to Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams.

CPT has had an almost continuous presence in Iraq since 2002, first in Baghdad and later in the Kurdish north.  Every time I’ve gone, things seem pretty much the same and sometimes, even worse.  Even the lulls in the street violence seem seductively false.

And it’s tempting to think that we have made absolutely no difference by being there.  But whenever those feeling creep into my life, I remember our friend, an Iraqi Christian woman now living outside of Iraq.

Visiting one day, another CPT’er voiced her own doubts about having made any difference and our Iraqi friend jumped up from the couch, practically shouting, “You must never say that, especially not to me!”

She went on to tell us about the nights she would stay up late watching the streets outside the apartment building where we all lived, searching to make sure that no one was coming to do us harm.  She reminded us that the entire neighborhood knew we (as Westerners) lived there, her point being that they all kept us safe by their silence, out of an appreciation for our presence and all that we did.  She spoke of the many who came to our doors seeking what help we could offer, whether to find loved ones in detention, to help them connect with resources, to accompany them through dangerous situations, or just to listen.

“You made a difference to us.”

The fact is that we often do not know the difference we make or how it is perceived by others.  On that day in our friend’s living room, we received a genuine gift.  It is a gift I would share with you.

You make a difference.  The people whose lives you touch the most may never tell you.  They may not know themselves.

But you make a difference.

That’s why God put you here in the first place.

Never doubt it.

You make a difference.