My grandpa was always a secondary character in my life. He was someone to go visit around holidays, he was someone to email occasionally when major political events happened, but he wasn’t someone that you wanted to talk to on the phone. He speech was slow, he droned, and for all intents and purposes, was pretty boring.
On a bus ride in Washington D.C. when I was eleven, I was stuck sitting next to him on the bus worried about which over told anecdote he would repeat for me today. The one about his preaching days for the Methodist church? The one about him being an Enson in the Navy? The one about him playing Scrooge in the high school play? Or the one about how babies were born?—but from the genetic perspective, not the physical one. Instead, he decided to tell me about how he thought he was a failure as a minister. I was taken aback; I had never heard this confident man utter any word of defeat. He explained that although he had tried so diligently to spread the word of God, he wasn’t very affective due to his manner of speaking, but he pursued other interests after retirement like working for his senior television station. He was adamant about his activities but I figured it was because he was a bored old man who needed to stay occupied. It turns out, he had a much greater goal; something so simple, yet so profound it startled me. He said he wanted to make a difference. And that I should always try to do the same.
After that time, I found that I paid more attention to my grandpa. I started to understand him more than I ever thought I could. So when I was by his side at his deathbed eleven years later, I had no issue listening to his repeated stories while he was struggling for air, because I finally understood all of it. He wasn’t telling me those stories just to hear himself talk, he was telling me those stories so I could learn something from them. So that I could, in turn, make a difference. I could learn from history’s mistakes, I could learn from relationship troubles, I could learn from all the petty happenings that have happened so that I could bring about a positive change in someone else’s life.
I believe that we all have the capability and the responsibility to try to make a difference. Because if we focus inward or make excuses or don’t try at all, we may never get to see the heart and soul of some extraordinary people. My grandpa had the right idea. And he most definitely made a difference to me.