"But will it make a difference?"
For the first time in over two months, we are getting a good, soaking rain of more than one inch today. Charlotte and the surrounding area had begun to lose its characteristic lush lustre. The ground beneath the withered grass and around the parched flowerbeds had begun to crack as though the earth was forming tiny mouths each of which cried out for water. The children and I looked out the windows and cheered. Except for the fact that we must walk Maya in the rain, we are loving the clouds and gloom. (Good news on the housetraining front: she has peed and pooped outdoors with regularity and ease for the past two days! The only accidents were my fault; I simply waited too long to take her out.) Earlier this afternoon, the weatherman on one of the local news stations said, "Finally Charlotte is getting much needed rain, but will it make a difference?"
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and countless churches and charitable organizations appealed not only to Americans but also to foreigners to send aid, food, money, clothing, and other items for the relief effort. As we called in a donation and then gathered soap and toothpaste and unopened packages of socks and underwear from our closets and cupboards, I looked over our few things, then contemplated the devastation portrayed in the news and wondered, "But will it make a difference?"
Late last year, a neighbor of mine gave birth for the second time in thirteen months. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I would rather clean my house than cook in it. Cooking is simply not my favorite thing to do - not by a long shot. But twice last winter when I was making soup, I put several servings into a plastic bowl and took it to Jennifer and Steve. Even as I walked there with my meager offerings in hand, I asked myself, "But will it make a difference?"
A year ago when we received the horrible news that infant Caroline had cancer, we immediately began to pray for her. We cried for Zach and Natalie and wished we lived closer to them so that we could support them in a more tangible way. I must admit that during times of prayer, I wondered and even asked God, "Will it make a difference?"
These two inches of rain won't solve the crises that southern farmers are facing as a result of the prolonged drought of these past months. But our lawn, rose bushes, and magnolia trees in their own special way are singing in the rain right now. Our bars of soap and bottles of shampoo won't meet the needs of all the evacuees who settled in Charlotte. But one family of clean-haired, lavender smelling folks is squeakly clean right about now. Jennifer and Steve ate two meals they didn't have to cook at a time when diapers and midnight feedings were all they had to look forward to for weeks on end. And Caroline is alive today because doctors acted with wisdom and God touched their hands and touched her body in such a way that she is alive and well right now.
It is impossible to know the effect our small acts of generosity, faith, and caring on the lives of those around us. Often our prayers and donations touch the lives of people whose faces we will never see. But when I take the time to reflect on my life, I know there are countless blessings that have been bestowed on me by doctors, friends, loved ones, and total strangers who didn't allow that question - "But will it make a difference?" - to keep them from reaching out and touching my life. Radiologists who reviewed repeat mammograms and gave me the good news that the lumps I felt were cysts were thanked in person and by mail. The gentleman who found my passport, travelers checks, credit cards, and airline ticket at Miami Airport and then chased me as I ran frantically down through the terminal several years ago was an angel from heaven itself. The list could go on for pages and ages. But receiving gifts of grace is the easy part.
For me, the challenge going forward is to do the right thing even when it seems futile, when I am certain that it won't make a difference. When friends don't respond to email or return my calls, I must continue to reach out. When politicians don't respond to letters or direct appeals, I must continue to speak up for what I believe. When poverty, war, and disease seem inevitable, I must stand against all of these killers whenever and however I can. When the only question that my mind seems to form is the one that began this blog, even then, I must do what is uncomfortable, say what is unexpected, and live in such a way that I make a difference.