Imbolc is an old European festival traditionally celebrated February 2nd. In Catholic tradition this date is known as Candlemas, and is sacred to Saint Brigid. In popular culture it has come down to us as Groundhog’s Day. This holiday marks the first stirring of the seeds, deep within the womb of earth. Nature is beginning to wake up. The days are visibly longer. There is a sense of freshness in the air, and a feeling of possibility. Imbolc is the traditional time to set new intentions and begin new projects for the coming year.
My intention for this year is to “Make a difference to someone every day.” This does not mean I have to cure someone of an obscure disease, or give a million dollars to my favorite charity, or write a best-selling book so beautifully written it makes people weep.
About a month ago I read this wonderful blog post about how we all can make a positive difference in others’ lives – in small ways. The title is “52 Baby Steps To Living a More Compassionate Life” by Judy Dunn. Here’s the link.
We often think “but I’m just one person” when faced with the numerous and enormous problems of the world. Words have power, so take the “just” out of that sentence. “I am One Person” is much better. It doesn’t matter how small your actions or words are. They still matter. It doesn’t matter who you are, or even how old you are. Here are two true stories that illustrate this.
Last Christmas my 9-year-old granddaughter received two $25 gift cards as presents. A few days after Christmas she and her father went shopping so she could spend her gift cards. She had it all planned out what she would buy. On the way to the store they were stopped at a red light and by the side of the road was a homeless man with a cardboard sign. She spoke up and asked her dad if he would pull over so she could give the man one of her gift cards. Her father, who knew how much she was looking forward to spending her money, was amazed – and proud. The homeless man was also amazed – and grateful. When complimented on her generosity, my granddaughter shrugged. “He needed it more than me,” she said.
Here’s a companion story, told to me by a friend. My friend and her 90-year-old mother were taking a drive and stopped at a diner for lunch. Her mother, whose name is Vera (a beautiful name which means “truth”) was always happy to get out and see what was going on in the world. She is a person who has always found life fascinating, which is probably one of the reasons for her longevity. At the diner Vera saw a young man sitting at a nearby table. He was scruffy with not-quite-clean clothes, a tired face, and a guitar leaning against his legs as he hunched over a cup of coffee. “We should buy that young man some food,” Vera said to her daughter. “He looks hungry.” Her daughter agreed, but said she wasn’t sure how to go about doing so.
Vera showed her how. She simply got up, walked over to the young man’s table (using her walker) and said, “You remind me so much of my son. He plays the guitar and when he was young he used to take it with him when he traveled. I’d like to buy you lunch because seeing you brought this memory back.”
See how she did that? Her offer held no condescension, no pity, just gratitude and fellow-feeling. What a wonderful woman Vera is. I’m grateful to her, just for being her.
The young man accepted her offer, of course. One cannot turn down a 90-year-old woman. “Can I play you a song?” he asked. He too wanted to make a difference.
Everyone can make a difference – the young and the old, from nine to ninety. These are the kinds of differences I want to make this year.