Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Making a Difference or Being Indifferent

On Saturday past, I had an opportunity to attend an all day workshop inside a penitentiary in Canada. The workshop, sponsored by Prison Fellowship Canada (http://www.prisonfellowship.ca), was targeted towards people who want to make a difference in the lives of those impacted by the prison system - current inmates of the prison system, ex-offenders, their life partners, their children, the communities in which they live and the people who work with all of these people.

The workshop was an eye opener for me. While I've always felt that those "inside the system" were victims in their own right, this workshop really opened my eyes as to how bleak an inmate's world looks because of a lack of commitment and support to them when they are released. We put a lot of attention into making sure they are locked up properly but put much less effort into making sure that that person, upon release, is given the chance to throw off the yoke of their past and to really being a new life filled with promise and opportunity.

This workshop is a call to action in my humble opinion. Yet when I shared information about the workshop with a number of "good Christians", I was told many times that "helping people such as offenders and their families is not part of a Christian's obligations to help others" or "there are lots of people out there already helping these people - they don't need me". For those of you who are not Christian, feel free to substitute "good human being" where you see the word "Christian".

This started my brain down the path of thinking about those who make a difference versus those who are waiting for someone else to make a difference. We often hear the cry "why doesn't someone do something about this?". We follow this cry with a feeling of disappointment when no one steps up to do something, when the truth is that the next person is also crying "why doesn't someone do something about this?". The expectation that the next person will take care of it leads to so many missed opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.

It doesn't have to be just in the prison system. It can be anywhere - serving food in a soup kitchen, sharing your life experience in the form of youth mentoring, visiting the aged and the sick, plugging into the many incredible volunteer agencies out there, getting involved in church stewardship programs where you share your skills, knowledge and time with those who could really benefit or anything else where you are touching a life.

Many people say "my life is too busy to help others". To those I have a couple of suggestions.

  1. In all of my years of working with leaders, I have yet to find someone who truly didn't have time. Their calendar may have been full, but their life was "too busy" because their calendar owned then, instead of them owning their calendar or they didn't know how to have productive days instead of busy days. See my blog entry on resources versus resourcefulness for more thoughts on this (http://harrytucker.blogspot.com/2008/02/musings-on-resources-versus.html).
  2. You or someone you love may someday be in a situation that would benefit from the help provided from someone else. When you realize the gratitude you would feel as a result of someone helping you or a loved one, remember that there is someone out there right now who would feel the same way if you helped them.

We have a choice. We can choose to make a difference or we can be indifferent, waiting for the next person to fill the gap that we leave by not stepping up. Someday the person needing help may be you or a loved one. Let that thought percolate for a while and then decide what you need to do.

Remember, you don't need to set out to change the world - you only need to change one person. However, given that one action on your part could in fact change the world, the time for action is now. Don't wait for the next guy to make a difference.

To your success in making a difference.


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