“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The phrase “Be the Difference”--on the surface--can be confusing. What do we mean by “difference?” The etymology of the word is interesting. It comes from medieval times when a standard coat of arms would be modified, made different, to reflect a particular family identity. If you get into a quarrel or disagreement with somebody, reconciliation is often referred to as “settling your differences.” Mathematically, the difference is the remainder left after subtraction of one value from another. It is defined as the state or condition of being dissimilar or unlike, or, a point or way in which people or things are not the same. Seriously, it feels like we are promoting people to be oppositional-defiant!
In some ways it might be unfortunate that we have adopted this phrase as a theme for doing good. What we are really saying is “make a positive, beneficial difference” in someone’s life, in a situation, or in our community. The difference is an improvement to the recipient’s life circumstances. Personally, I prefer the phrase “Be Transformative or Transformational.” It is the process whereby our individual actions are important in transforming an individual, situation, community or society into something better, healthier, happier, and satisfied. Being the Difference is tantamount to being a positive agent of change.
I love Emerson’s quote because striving to be useful, honorable and compassionate is transformative. It not only transforms our state of mind, satisfaction and wellbeing, but it manifests positive change and energy outwardly; transforming beyond ourselves, producing life-changing impact. The human spirit was designed to be like a healthy body of water. There must be an ongoing intake of healthy, renewing nourishment; but there also must be an outlet of the same. Otherwise, we become stagnant and foul. A lifestyle of producing transformative, positive Difference in others keeps us all healthy.
Being the Difference, (i.e., transformative), is not necessarily about grandiose activity that will bend the course of history; though definitely some will achieve this. Rather, it is individual acts of compassion, kindness, self-sacrifice or efforts to improve the lot of another. Each of these actions create a ripple of hope and wellbeing. The greater the scale of transformative actions, the more people engaged, ripples become waves, and waves become floods of positive change. But each of us must make a conscientious effort to create ripples!
It is important to remember that everyone of us is uniquely gifted and created for our own destiny of Being a Difference. Too often we think we are insignificant or “what difference can I make, or what can I do?” Reframe your thinking with this beautiful piece of wisdom from Edward Hale, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
Being transformative is a lifestyle. Every day we must put on the spectacles of Being the Difference. We must sharpen our focus on where we can do something within our sphere of skill and capability to help others. We do not need to look far to realize there is opportunity in every direction we gaze. Is there an elderly neighbor you can provide some assistance? Is there somebody ill or confined you can visit? Does a friend need help with their child? Can you volunteer somewhere? Is there a cause or a charity whose mission you love that you can support financially? Do you have an accumulation of stuff that could be donated to help the less fortunate? We can never be useful or compassionate if we are not constantly looking for opportunities to serve others.
There is a deceptively subtle delusion which has permeated our society, and probably every society over time. It is the belief that life will be made better by the pursuit of success, wealth, prosperity and power. That is an illusion. History is replete with “successful” people who are miserable and unsatisfied. The only real substance to a satisfied mind is the power of Being the Difference. There is no substitute to the intrinsic, transformative power of being useful, honorable and compassionate.
I have forever been grateful for the Transformative words of American thinker, engineer, architect, and futurist, R. Buckminster Fuller. Hopefully these words of his will resonate with you as well, “Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren't any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn't be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life's challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person!”
Now – go out and Be the Difference! Visit give.fcni.org to donate and make an immediate impact today!