Have you ever wondered, ‘Is what I’m doing making any difference whatsoever?’
Maybe you’re a parent trying to extract yet more endless patience from somewhere inside you. You find yourself guiltily longing for someone – anyone – to acknowledge the sacrifices you willingly make every hour, on the hour. In those moments, you don’t see the well-rounded adults your children could become as a result of your long-suffering.
Or, perhaps you’re working super hard at your job and you feel unappreciated and undervalued. You’re ploughing through endless amounts, but you feel like what you do isn’t making a tangible difference to others. All you seem to be getting back are problems and complaints. You don’t see the customers whose day you make brighter with your smile; the colleague who needed your kindness that day; or the manager who is secretly inspired by your work ethic.
It could be that you’re a teacher who invests huge amounts of time, emotions and creativity with seemingly very little appreciation in return. You’re pouring out day after day, but you feel taken for granted. You don’t see how instrumental your efforts are to the confidence those kiddies will have when they grow up.
Maybe you feel discouraged by the lack of ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ you receive on social media platforms. You feel unpopular and unnoticed. But you don’t see the person who was feeling stressed out and low until they read your post, or listened to that encouragement you put out there.
Let me encourage you today never to measure the fruit of your labours or the impact of your life only by what you see.
Because what you see is only the tip of the iceberg.
I had an experience recently which was weird and encouraging all at the same time. I’d written a poem and had messaged it to a WhatsApp group I was part of. A few days later I got a message from someone saying – ‘A friend from Scotland sent me this; it really encouraged me; I hope it encourages you too.’ I read the message, only to find out that it was, in fact, my own poem. Bizarre! I never would have found out it had been shared all around the country if this lady had not sent it on to me, not knowing I had written it.
This funny coincidence taught me something important. We will never know the true extent of how our lives impact others. This shouldn’t prevent us from continuing to pour ourselves out – on the contrary – it makes it all the more important to keep doing those seemingly insignificant things to bless others, because cumulatively they make an immeasurable difference.
I was thinking this week in particular about the influence teachers and leaders have over our lives.
🍎 I still remember my P1 teacher’s smile. It made me feel like she was happy to see me. It made me feel like I was loveable!
✏️ Then there was my wonderful English teacher at secondary school, who impacted me forever when she identified a gift for writing in me and encouraged me to pursue it. Her affirmation was a huge part of me having the confidence to step out and do it.
🍔 I’m also forever grateful to one youth leader in particular, who drove me to youth group every Sunday night for seven years, and sat with all of us in McDonald’s afterwards. He showed me commitment and practical love by example. Cumulatively, He modelled what it was like to walk through life with someone and watch them grow.
👱🏻👨🏻🦰 Or my mum and dad, whose effervescent wisdom has led me through so many complex and difficult situations in my life. I take their principles and values with me everywhere I go.
What an investment! You can’t express it, encapsulate it or define it. It’s immeasurable, unquantifiable, incalculable. It’s the shaping and forming and moulding of the life of another, through the little loving and selfless things you do everyday – consistently and generously.
Often you’ll not find out about how these seemingly insignificant acts made a difference until much later, and sometimes never.
And remember, for every one positive message you have received, there are many that you didn’t, and many people whose lives have been powerfully influenced by your presence.
So, whether your invest your energies, encouragements and investments in:
📚 life-long learning
💖 contagious kindness
👧 positive self image
👊 hope in despair
💷 Relief to poverty
💪 endurance in weariness
… keep going! You may not see all the results, but Van Gogh couldn’t have dreamed how the world would be enriched by his paintings 🖼, Beethoven couldn’t have envisaged how people all over the globe would be soothed by his sonatas 🎶; and Anne Frank never imagined how many people would read her diary 📔.
They only saw the tip of the iceberg, and so do we.
Let’s live with the great expanse under the water in mind.