Making a difference


April 3rd, 2013

The drive from Jaipur to Delhi took over five hours – 270 kms. My driver, Ashok, stopped at a restaurant for lunch. It was packed. It was packed with Indians, the women all in lovely saris. It was noisy. It was Sunday. Lots of families. I felt out of place,

I visited the bathroom. It was also packed. No surprises there. Everyone in lovely saris – except me and the toilet attendant. As I left, I handed her a few rupees. She brought the notes to her lips, and our eyes met for a moment.

We talk of making a difference. We talk of doing something grand, of doing something that will make the world a better place. It is these small gestures that probably make the biggest difference.

Tom Jacobs says it better than I can:

“Humility. We are each of us brothers. Things might have gone differently. Whether we were born in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time, we owe everything to contingency, chance, and providence. As my high school track teacher used to say before a track meet, when we were all feeling wildly anxious: “everyone puts their pants on in the same way.” I never quite knew what he meant by that at the time, but I think I understand now.

Charles Baxter says something somewhere (in his novel Shadow Play) that our lives end at our fingertips. There is truth to this. There are large gestures and small gestures. Most of what matters in this world are the small gestures. Tipping well; being nice to the cashier; dropping whatever money you might have in your pocket into the homeless person’s cup (or at the very least, acknowledging their existence…saying ‘hello,’ type of thing); letting the car in front of you merge when they need to. These are small gestures. The dramatic and pivotal decision that ramifies beyond our immediate experience is rare, and perhaps not worth worrying about. By all means, vote. Like political messages on facebook. But the actual work of a truly democratic society happens in the everyday, in the dust kicked up by just waking up and existing with others in time.”

HT to Johnnie Moore’s tweet

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