Making a Difference

For as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to make a difference. I wanted to do something amazing: something that I would always be remembered for. I wanted my name to be recalled with admiration long after I was gone. I wanted my children to be proud of their Mom. I wanted to feel proud of myself.

I chose a profession in education: a place where it is easy to make a difference – if you want to – every single day. For most of my career, I worked in adult education; adult literacy, to be exact. One would think that working with adults who are learning to read and to write would be about as fulfilling a career as one could aspire to. Instead, I worked far, far in the background: writing and overseeing grant proposals for our annual funding; preparing action plans and strategic plans for the government to approve and therefore allow us to keep doing what we were doing for another year; training the teachers who would actually get to teach an adult how to read for the first time, as well as teaching them the myriad life skills that the statistical majority of us take for granted: skills that feel like a mountain to the adult learner who is absorbing them for the first time.

Year after year, maintaining gainful employment relied solely on how well I did in writing those grant proposals. Every year at grant-writing time, my adrenals went into overdrive as I did back flips to ensure funding not just for the school boards I was working for, but also to ensure that I got paid: that I would be able to continue putting bread on the table for me and for my kids. Ironically, it wouldn’t be the precarious nature of that work that would do me in, but rather, the politics of the place I was working in when they finally noticed me – 25 years after I had started working there – and hired me to work for them. Office politics are not for the faint of heart.

Because of a truly epic burnout (adrenal exhaustion), my retirement five years later was a dismal little blip on a rather vanilla-flavoured radar. Oh, I know I made a quiet difference to the amazing people I got to work with over the twenty-five years that I worked in the field of adult education, just as they made a difference for me. But as I sat weakly recuperating in a chair in my living room for a full year after I retired at the unthinkable age of 53; as I watched myself being very easily replaced from afar; as I came to the conclusion that absolutely no one is irreplaceable, my ego took its final blow and toppled heavily into the chasm it should have stayed in, in the first place.

It’s been seven years since my body decided it had had enough. I’ve had a lot of time to think about my life goals. And about ‘making a difference’. I still do what I can, especially for the environment, which has always been an issue that mattered to me. But just like my career, anything I am doing for the environment is but a blip on the radar (that’s okay; I do it anyway).

Besides helping my sister take care of our ailing Mom, I also knit toques and neck warmers for local schools (proudly featured above). They are cute little things, if not haute couture, and I am glad to know that if a child came to school one day without their hat, or worse, if they didn’t have one to wear, I have made a definite difference in their day, even if they don’t know my name or that some white-haired lady in the community made it ‘just for them’.

Recently, a friend in the community wrote to me to tell me that something I wrote on my blog made a difference for them; they told me that I had ‘put into words’ exactly how they were feeling. They thanked me for my encouragement. I will never be able to adequately express how wonderful that made me feel, or just what those words meant to me.

I will shortly be 61. And I have accepted that I am not going to be famous. My name is not going to be remembered long after I am gone.

But every day that I quietly make a small difference in my tiny little world is enough for me, now…

Patti Moore Wilson/©




Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

22 thoughts on “Making a Difference”

  1. This is lovely, heartfelt, honest, and so very relatable! Except for the knitting. I wish I could–those hats are adorable! But I am a development writer–who won’t touch grant-writing with a 10-foot pole–for universities and health systems by day. I try to tell myself that my sales-y language combined with some heartstring-pulling stories helps educators and doctors and nurses continue to help those who need it. Mostly it helps me feel I’m contributing to my household and helping get groceries into my ravenous teen boys. And that’s OK too.

    A story: on Thursday I attended my aunt’s funeral. She lived a long life in the same town, raising 5 kids, and seeing her grandkids come along. She cleaned the decorated her church. She was a lunch lady at school. She never got her name on anything and was basically a homemaker, though we don’t use that term much anymore. Was she significant outside her small circle? Evidently so. My cousin says that everywhere she goes around town now someone stops her to tell her that she knew her mom, that she was a good friend.

    Those small differences you’re making are huge in the end, is what I’m saying. Thank you for that Patti, for writing, and impacting our reading lives and opening our hearts to good stuff. And happy weekend to you!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What a lovely, lovely response, Rebecca… I also post my blog on my Facebook page and I was overwhelmed by the responses from dear old friends telling me I made a difference just be being their friend. We live in a strange time, thinking we’ve only made a difference if our name is in lights. I, too, heard the loveliest stories about my Dad’s very quiet kindnesses, at his funeral. So glad you stopped by, and I hope you and yours are doing well 🙂🙏💕

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Still reading you and enjoying you Patti. I also am one who has always wanted and still wants to make a difference. I used to be so focussed on my career or paid employment. But I have come to believe, like you, that we don’t need our names are in the paper or to be recognized by the masses when we go out. That a difference is made in the little things we do – like taking time to talk to a lonely neighbour or to hold a door. That lesson I learned from Denis and his amazing gaspésien roots. Kathryn

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I love your knitted hats, Patti. Beautiful work 🙂 The workplace can be a very demanding and stressful environment. So sorry to learn that you suffered burnout at such a young age. I agree that the little we do to make a difference in this world may be just a “blip on the radar,” but we do it anyway. >Your post brings to mind Mark Nepo’s reflection “An Invitation” on December 2 in which he invites us “to stop striving to be important,” but rather to “devote ourselves to the life at hand.” In doing so, what is essential and hidden in life will reveal itself to us. [Excerpt from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo]

    Liked by 4 people

    1. What a wonderfully wise woman you are, Rosaliene… Your posts – and your comments – always touch my heart. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the folks in our little blogging world could get together from time to time to REALLY chat over a nice cup of coffee? Thank you! I will be seeking out Mark Nepo’s book!!! 🙏💕

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Patti, thank you for your kind words ❤ It would, indeed, be wonderful if we could meet face-to-face with our blogging friends! Nevertheless, these connections have been a blessing in my life. We are not alone.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think we all want to make a difference, Patti. You do so with your writing, and your lovely little toques strike me as both physically and symbolically valuable: what could be more important than protecting the heads of numbers of young children? They remind me of the socks the folks who started the vast Bombas enterprise began with: they were for homeless people, and they now donate a portion of their earnings to provide homeless shelters with socks and underwear.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I love the idea of knitting those items for the local schools. That’s a great gift to give them. I have always felt life is about the little things. One well-timed, well-placed word or act can turn someone’s life completely around. I always try to keep that in mind when interacting with others. We don’t need to be famous to change the world. If we each make just one person’s life better on Earth, all of us are rock stars!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I agree that lots of little acts of kindness and generosity add up over time. Thanks for your candor. Our culture certainly tends to over-emphasize fame and power and money as measures of “success.” To me your handsome hats are a significant contribution to the lives of many!

    Liked by 1 person

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