What It Means to Make a Difference

Have I only a year to make a difference? Isn’t it the point of one’s life to do so, then?

From The Gift of Asher Lev:

“A person has to have a reason for living, and the best reason is another person. Together they can  make a plan for their lives…”

“Rilke’s Letters to Cezanne: He claimed to have lived as a bohemian until his 40th year. Only then, through his acquaintance with Pissarro, did he develop a taste for work. But then to such an extent that for the next 40 years he did nothing but work.”

Two weeks from today I will marry Dan. On the cusp of 40 years old, I am just beginning my life. Everything until now was a precursor, preparation for what is to come.

It was only when I was 38 that I learned to focus on work, to dissect it, to do the work and not worry about anything else. What a beautiful gift that was!

The work is the present moment, the here-and-now, the paper/task/project set before me and the gratitude I show for having something of meaning to do. That’s how I look at my daily work.

This morning, Dan and I hiked part of the Paint Creek Trail. The river rushed – a glorious sound, mesmerizing. I could have stared all day at the brown waters between the high trees, and the way it fell over itself in white tipped rapids.

Although we are doing this hike for others, there is no such thing as a selfless good deed. I remember the Friends episode when Phoebe tries to find a selfless good deed and cannot. I thought about that one for days after, and came to realize it is true. In doing for others, we feel so good – it seems almost selfish.

I’ll admit it, I’ll embrace the good feeling, I’ll own it entirely. I love doing for others. I am the one buying gifts just because I know it’s perfect for someone I love. If I can do, buy, give to another without depriving my immediate family, I do. There is no reason not to.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned as I’ve grown older is that the purpose of life IS to give to others, to contribute to the world, to make the world better. If an endeavor before me does not in some way impact that goal, it’s not worth taking on.

The Paint Creek Trail was flat and gravelly, old train rails brushed smooth for walking and bikes. Countless people passed us. One called, “Go team!”

That’s why we practice as a team. People get on board when they see us all working together for a common goal.

It was something said at the information session, when Dan and I pledged to raise this money and do this hike. Because we can. Because we are embarking on a life of being a team. Because if we are not focused on others, we will destroy what is so beautiful between us.

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