Friday, December 17, 2010

Making a Difference

Hal Pepinsky,,
December 17, 2010
It occurs to me that in a thank-you message to those about a recent talk, I was arrogant when I claimed appreciation for feeling that I had made a significant difference for the better in the lives of a couple of people at the talks in particular whom I asked to be thanked, one for telling me how much she had valued listening to me, another for spending a good chunk of time after the talk just following up in conversation. How dare I presume to know that they really got something significant out of my presence? How egotistical can I be?
Years ago students above all taught me just to say thanks to apparently heartfelt expressions of appreciations for times we had spent together. Such genuine appreciation has by now become my primary measure of the value of my human existence. I have long since learned not to demur but to say heartfelt thanks.
I recently received a lifetime professional award. Truth be told, the sentiments expressed at the award ceremony meant the world to this retired guy. The sentiments expressed by the two people at my recent talk meant no less. The pleasure and validation I get out of making a difference for the better in other people’s lives comes in small ways in everyday encounters. There is no aha I’ve made it moment to my sense of earthly salvation. I mourn the many times I see people who have done so much in their lives still struggling to get THE recognition that any single accomplishment in their lives justifies their early existence. The very idea that the significant differences we make in one another’s lives have to “solve” human problems in order to count in the cosmic scheme of things saddens me, not only for others, but for the toll this quest for salvation and validation takes in human lives.
I have no inkling as to whether those two people at the talk did anything more significant as a result of our encounter than honestly appreciate the moment and tell me so. For my sense of self-worth and belonging, those moments were nonetheless as precious as living moments get for me, and sustain me. As we turn the winter solstice moment on my part of the planet, I feel renewed and give thanks in this season of renewal. It only took little moments of other people giving me their time for me to feel as love as loved gets. Love and peace--hal

1 comment:

  1. You will always be valued and loved because you are the least arrogant "professional" one can encounter. You're "in there" with us, openly suspicious and honest about the game itself, and always "on behalf" of the least powerful in whatever scenario (students come to mind). I'm sorry I wasn't at your ceremony--but feel less bad about that in learning you were not there either! But a well-deserved recognition that percolated from the "bottom up."