I believe that people make a difference. That may sound like a common platitude, so much so that the significance of that phrase may be underestimated. At least for me, that phrase was uttered or thought of in much the same way as I say the pledge of allegiance. Do we actually stop and thing about those words these days?
Well, recently I did think about the phrase, ‘people make a difference’. It seems to take a major crisis, a time of widespread tragedy, that humanity shows its best colors. I have always believed in that goodness and not found humanity as a whole to have let others down. The outpouring of food, blankets, money, opening one’s home, donating blood, and multitude of prayers, whatever was needed after a particular crisis comes quickly and without reservation. Movie stars champion particular causes and raise money and awareness. Yet, I do not expect any grand gestures of generosity to come to me personally. I believe in being responsible and independent. I believe none of my personal difficulties can compare with those witnessed on the national or global news so I had no right to impose on anyone or any agency. I am proud of being able to take care of myself and my family. I wish to be in no one’s debt. So when my widowed mother became so ill that she could no longer remain in my care we contracted with an Assisted Living Facility and for 18 months my immediate family and social security benefits provided for my mother’s needs. I was proud of this, but then the time came to swallow my pride and apply for state assistance. While approved and enrolled into the State program, problems arose regarding the eligibility of the “bed” my mother occupied under state guidelines. Sometimes policy and bureaucracy get in the way of people wanting to do the “right and caring” thing and so that was the situation for my mother. Concurrent with this request for assistance, my mother entered hospice care, and was waning daily. Despite this very sensitive and emotional time for our family we were given the choice to move my mother from her present facility or be disenrolled. I do not blame the agency for irrational indifference, it was just “the rules” and they had to communicate them to me. This was our personal crisis, my mother’s impending death a personal tragedy. I did not want to move my mother and neither did Jill, the owner of the facility where my mother resided. A multitude of phone calls and days of uncertainty lead to the actions that inspired this essay. Jill not only offered to apply to the State to make my mothers “bed” eligible under our State health system, but also offered that room and all the care that comes with it free of charge until all matters were settled. Furthermore, if the matter was never resolved my mother could stay in her present room indefinitely! Jill stood to lose income and at the very least would receive a reduced income for a room that was otherwise privately contracted. Despite all my protests that I must pay her something, she refused. Can one person make a difference? Oh indeed. In my mother’s case it was surely Jill, who provided the stability we prayed for to ease the stress of my mother’s final journey. Through Jill’s staff, my mother was lovingly tended to in every way. No one knew of Jill’s action except for my family members. My pride, my sense of “duty” kept insisting that I must reimburse her, soon, somehow. I could not accept this generosity; after all she had bills and staff to pay! Yet Jill stood firm, and I came to trust her and believe that there are people who actually demonstrate significant acts of kindness without condition. That realization made me face the possibility that I might really doubt and distrust people’s motives. I had to face the fact that I could not take care of this problem alone. I had to reach out for help and give over my control of my mother’s care to Jill and ultimately my mother’s life to God. Sure I could donate dollars to the hurricane victims, or AIDS cause, but that is so removed, with no strings attached. You don’t really have to do anything, or meet the victims or know their personal stories, but Jill did. Could I have done that?
Jill made a difference in my mother’s life. She made a difference in my life. She made me a believer that in the middle of life’s entanglements, there are people who bring peace and love to those lives all because they have a large heart and in return, ask nothing.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.