(*Photo credited to Neal Fowler*)
The struggle of humankind is inevitable. Some of us are born into unfortunate or difficult or even terrible circumstances. All of us experience circumstances of these kind at some point during the course of our existence. We all need a little, or a lot of something from someone else every now and again to inject colour and hope and opportunity into our lives when colour and hope and opportunity are diminished. In varying contexts, there are people better off and worse off than I am, and there are people better off and worse off than you, all of whom could do with some help at some point. It's intrinsic to my nature, just like it probably is to yours, just like it is a lot of other people in this world, to think 'you know what, I want to make a difference'....'I can make a difference', however that may manifest itself. But what does that mean? What does it actually mean to make a difference?
Sometimes, if I'm particularly moved or shocked or infuriated by something, my desire to make a difference fills me with so much passion and fervency that I physically feel like I could burst. Thoughts and ideas cascade and hurtle out of me like fireworks at terrifying pace. BANG. Some of those thoughts and ideas, like those awesome fireworks that, for lack of better description, just look like bloody CHRISTMAS in the sky, are pretty damn special. Most of them, however, fly beautifully within my mind and then disintegrate the moment that they hit the damning chill of reality. Terrible ideas are my forte. (Sympathetic nods are totally warranted at this point. Thanks.)
Either way, I'm totally wired to think and create and get excited about stuff, and so the subtle thought of trying to make a difference often catapults my brain into the realms of near-delirium. What can I do to change the world, maaaaaaaaan? How can I raise thousands of pounds for this cause or that cause or this person or that campaign? Could I do a naked paraglide without being arrested or making anyone recoil in horror? (Ahem, rhetorical question; thank you very much.) Could I do a sponsored cartwheelathon from like, Brighton, to erm, MARS?
If you take those 3 words, 'making a difference', and you create an acronym, you get 'mad'. Sometimes, it does make me mad. It makes me mad that I can think up or pursue these ridiculous, grand ideas which never quite come to life or work in a setting beyond my own frantic cognition. And it makes me mad in the best kind of way too. My imagination's never more vibrant than when I'm conjuring up a way to positively influence other people. I completely champion big, mad ideas. Mad brings about the unforgettable. Mad inspires and influences and sends shockwaves to people's souls and makes people go 'shiiiiiiiiiiiit!' and 'wow', and sometimes 'shiiiiiiiiiiiit!' and 'wow' are entirely what's needed. We'll always remember that one person who did that amazing thing that benefitted all of those lives, and rightly so.
There is, however, a certain, easily neglected piece of sparkly wisdom that we should all become more complacent with.
You don't have to change the entire world to make a difference; you just need to be a positive force on the little piece of world around you, on everybody, on people who are happy or sad, on people who are having the 'BEST DAY EVER!' or 'just one of those days, pass me the vino'. Be mad and be creative as you please, but just don't forget the wonder of all of those lovely, little things that you can offer people: those innate qualities of yours that make it so easy for you to be quietly extraordinary. Don't belittle your worth simply because you may not have the time or courage or audacity to do something totally insane or, (cue note to self) because it's impossible to do a sponsored cartwheelathon to Mars.
Exercise your manners and your funny bone. Compliment people; just don't be a creep about it. Never walk past a crying person in the street. Ask people how they are. Tell Margaret from the post office how fabulous her frizzy, mauve barnet is. Hold doors open for people. Let loveliness burst out of you like rays of sunshine. Smile at strangers; just don't be a creep about it. Live passionately and fully and well. Tell people how you feel. Share gin and conversation. Stay faithful to your own dreams and never dampen the dreams of others. Throw your porky limbs around each other and revel in the brilliance of physical affection; just don't be a creep about it. Look after your body. Be honest. Just be lovely. Making a difference really can be that simple.
In May 2011, I was travelling back from London, alone, and for whatever reason, I was completely inconsolable. There were tears. There was snot. There were bizarre, hideous facial expressions and bizarre, hideous crying noises that made me look/sound like a farm animal in distress. I would not have blamed the stranger sitting opposite me had he buried a nervous laugh into his sleeve or quietly scurried off to a different carriage so he could enjoy the rest of his journey without playing witness to my peculiar breakdown. But no; he retrieved a packet of tissues from his pocket and he handed them to me. He then leaned over and patted me, albeit awkwardly, on my arm. He did his best to offer a reassuring smile too. And in doing those things, as insignificant as they may seem out of context, he completely turned my day around.
Often, the littlest scatterings of kindness and positive humanity are those which are most profound. Don't forget it.