“I want to make a difference,” I told my therapist recently. “I always have, with every profession I’ve considered. I’m not sure I’m doing that.”
We were discussing some questions of discernment that I’ve been mulling, reflecting on choices I’ve made and choices I will have to make soon, related to my career as a pastor but also broader questions of life and purpose. Developmentally appropriate, I tell myself, for middle age.
A few days after our session, I was walking the dog when the realization hit me: I don’t have to do anything. I make a difference just being.
Somewhere, I have a little slip of paper with a quote written on it. One year, I had a plan to jot down moments and thoughts I wanted to remember, good things to review on the eve of the next new year. I think I only did it twice before the plan was forgotten, but one memory written down stuck. In a moment of angst, my husband Matt had gently encouraged me, saying, “You don’t have to try so hard. You’re already extraordinary.” (Yeah, I know, he’s a keeper).
I realized on that walk that I don’t have to try so hard. While of course I will continue to advocate for justice and be a voice for necessary change in the world, the weight of changing the world–of saving the world–does not rest on my shoulders. I have already changed the world just by existing.
We all do. Perhaps some of us make more of an impact than others, or get more noticed than others. Yet we cannot begin to know how the world would be different if we had never existed. This goes well beyond note-worthy events. I would suggest that we often make a difference without even realizing it, in moments that casual observation would deem insignificant.
As a person working to move beyond the capitalism-ingrained notion that my worth is directly linked to my productivity, this notion is revolutionary. We can just live, and it is enough. In fact, as many people who have dealt with miscarriage, stillbirth, and pregnancy termination could tell you, we don’t even have to be born to make a difference.
So, hey. The next time the world seems overwhelming and you feel like you’re not doing enough, not making enough of a difference, remember that box is already checked. You’ve already made a difference by existing. Anything you do on top of that is gravy.