Difference Making

Jan. 30, 2023 

In the 2003 novel, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” Mitch Albom charts the life of amusement ride mechanic, Eddie, who loses his life in an amusement park accident.  Upon his arrival in heaven, he encounters five of the people who had significant impact on him while he was alive.


Eddie lived much of his own life unfulfilled, that is until he also meets those he had influenced or affected most significantly, many of whom went on to have great achievement themselves.  Eddie, through his seemingly understated and unknowing acts of service, learns in the afterlife that he provided that opportunity for them.


In my vocation as a Career and Life Coach, clients profess a variety of reasons and underlying motivations for seeking services.  Some would like to sharpen their communication skills to enhance their performance in job interviews hoping that it will lead to advancement opportunities and foster greater financial reward.  Others, already in a role of leadership, aim to better their professional presence, in an effort to promote to the c-suite, and again discover more compensation.  There can exist still a few more, pursuing improvement in life goals:  better relationships with family and friends, more effective time management allowing for decreased stress and increased chances for recreation, or fulfilling hopes for preferable health and fitness. 


All these motivations eventually point back to a desire for a higher quality life, often defined by more time, better health, or greater financial resources.  What is often surprising, however, is that when peeling deeper into the layers of the onion, a most profound desire of the human heart seems to be the craving to “matter,” to make a difference, if you will.  Much like Eddie in the book, we yearn for impact.


As a schoolboy in the farmlands of the Midwest, one of my pastors in St. Louis garnered a reputation as a crafty, wily southpaw pitcher.  Even at a young age, professional scouts salivated over his ability and the possibility of discovering another Spahn or Koufax.  One such member of the vanguard for the White Sox, a fellow who had himself achieved moderate success in identifying talent, approached the 19 year old as to his future considerations. 


The young man was torn.  He loved the game of baseball, but simultaneously sensed a calling to the faith-based ministry.  The scout, too, found himself troubled.  Though his job was to secure athletes that might eventually wind their way into Chicago, he reflectively questioned his impact on the greater good of humanity, wondering how much he had “mattered.”  After all, it was “just” baseball, a kid’s game.  As the scout and player together contemplated and prayed over the eventual decision, a certain peace was reached.  For the scout he came to understand that his job at that moment had transcended the sport of baseball.


The young man went on to pastor for some 50 years.  Following his retirement from the ministry he also finally got the call to the big leagues, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch from the mound at Busch Stadium preceding a St. Louis Cardinals game.


For readers, I don’t know who all you have impacted during your time on this planet, but I do believe it is more, much more than you would ever imagine.  Who, by encountering you, didn’t give up or strived to be better?  To whom did you offer words of encouragement, or for that matter, no words at all, perhaps just a time or moment of presence?  Who needed your friendship or more importantly love, at a critical juncture?


Think back on the times that you’ve made a difference.  There may be a birthday card stowed away somewhere.  A commendation for service.  A glowing performance evaluation.  Maybe just a simple thank you note. 


Build upon those mementos and the many more that are unwritten and even unspoken. 


Also, know that even far greater opportunities and possibilities are possible and can and I believe will await and meet you on the next and future steps of your life journey.  It’s never too late.  May your adventures be meaningful, fulfilling, powerful, exciting, and joyful.


The Seed Sower