Inventory the difference you already make

A few years ago, I was having lunch with a few participants in a training program I was attending in Seattle. One woman at the table began to share about her work. She was working as a secretary for an insurance company. She expressed a desire to change careers, stating, “I want to do something that makes a difference in the world.”

I asked her, “do you like the work you do?”

She replied, “Oh, yes. I work for a wonderful company, but the work I do doesn’t make any difference. I want to do something that makes a difference in the world.”

Her timing could not have been better. Her remarks brought to mind an experience I had two weeks prior to this event.

I shared of a recent visit to company. I was waiting in the lobby for an appointment with the CEO. As I was waiting, the receptionist began to talk with me, and I recall her bright and enthusiastic voice.

She was preparing Christmas presents to send to clients. She mentioned that each year her company has a local artist create something that they can send to clients. She then shared the gift they had been sent the previous year. It was a collection of bookmarkers. Each one had a beautiful illustration from nature on one side that reflected a poem on the other side of the bookmark. She then gave one of the packets of bookmarks. I happily accepted the gift! Now, years later, I am still enjoying those beautiful bookmarks.

The receptionist then went on to share about the wonderful people she worked with.

The highlight of my appointment was the conversation with that receptionist. She really made a difference in my life that day. In fact, that receptionist continues to be an inspiring example of the difference a healthy conversation, and workplace, can make.

I shared this story at the lunch table and suggested to the women who wanted to do work that makes a difference that perhaps the real difference to make is in the interactions she has with people throughout the day at her present job.

Our lunch concluded and we all went back to our training program.

A year or two later I was in Portland Oregon attending a conference. To my surprise the same women who had been at that lunch table with me was at the conference! She saw me from a distance and came running toward me, “Chuck, I am so happy to see you. I want you to know that I didn’t leave my job. I realized that I love the work I am already doing and that I am already making a difference!”

I thanked her for sharing. As I left, the thought came to me “perhaps we are a little too focused on trying to make a difference. Perhaps we are already making a difference and that the real difference lies in our daily interactions with those close to us?

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