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The difference we don’t even know we make

Posted in Life & Love

Tennessee Williams quoteI push the cart, hurriedly, into the 99 cents store.
“Claudia” I hear a voice calling.
I look up to see an old man, stooped over his cart, in line at the checkout. It takes me a moment to focus and recognize his face.

I saved a man’s life once, years ago, and that man is now in front of me. It wasn’t a grand gesture, I didn’t run into a house on fire, I simply walked into work one day and saw one of my dishwashers sitting outside, an unhealthy shade of grey on his face, and asked if he was ok.

“I feel weird. There is a tightness in my chest” he replied.
“I am calling an ambulance.”
“I don’t have money for an ambulance” he said feebly.
“We are going to worry about the money later. I am calling an ambulance.”

The day after, his grown-up children came to the restaurant to tell me their father had been in the midst of a heart attack when I dispatched him to the hospital, and if I hadn’t insisted he would have died. They were very grateful. I didn’t feel like a hero, I just did the logical thing anybody in my position would have done. I never gave it much of a second thought. Jose came back to work, eventually, and now there he was, in front of me, exchanging pleasantries, inquiring about my life.

On a day when I felt overworked, tired and particularly hormonal, it felt as if life had sent me a reminder that life it is worth living, that, even when we don’t think about it, we can make a difference.

Within both industries where I spent most of my working life, I sometimes mentored girls, I encouraged a few, from less than privileged backgrounds, to study; I offered promotions; I prodded them to think bigger; I negotiated better deals for them. I never did it to receive thanks (although some did extend their gratitude), to earn a medal or to be praised. I did it because it was the logical thing to do, the right thing to do and, in the process, I made a difference.

I realized, that day, in a 99 cent store, that, over the course of a life, our actions can be likened to solid bricks that, on their own, don’t mean much but, cemented together, end up building walls. Some of us build walls, some entire houses and a few go on to build whole cities. But, whatever our contribution, doing the logical thing, doing what we feel is right, provides meaning to our lives. Brick by single brick.

Dedicated to all the ones who, in the early hours of Sunday morning, made a difference inside a nightclub in Orlando. To all the victims’ families and to the LGBT community at large, our deepest sympathy and our support. 

Image unearthed by Eddie C.

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8 Comments

  1. I needed this post today. Thanks, Claudia.

    June 14, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Glad I could help.

      June 15, 2016
      |Reply
  2. Thank you for reminding me that each of those individual bricks joined together builds something remarkable. We have to keep building, to isolate ourselves deprives us of the humanity that runs through us all. ღ

    June 14, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Worth remembering now and then.

      June 14, 2016
      |Reply
  3. Aww… This is starting to sound like “if one thing doesn’t get you, something else will”. Still, I like these stories all the same. It’s amazing how small actions can have such profound impacts on the lives of others.

    June 14, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      And it is even more amazing how we are mostly oblivious most of the time.

      June 14, 2016
      |Reply
  4. camparigirl
    camparigirl

    How is that for an uplifting story?? What I left out of mine was that Jose told me about his wife dying of brain cancer and of his heart being in the final stretch. Now that we are suitably bummed, am going back to work.

    June 14, 2016
    |Reply
  5. winston moreton
    winston moreton

    You’re cool! Reminds me I thought I was once. Des had popped his head into my office and told me proudly that he had told Ray to go home because Ray was feeling unwell and looked terrible. My response was ‘did any one go with him? – he might be keeling over in the street.” Des tore out of my office down to the street but Ray had gone – he was keeling over around the corner and had major heart surgery as a result. I visited Ray in hospital; he was cheerful in recovery but never came back to work. He died three months later of cancer.

    June 14, 2016
    |Reply

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