Who’s Making an Impact?


At this time of year, many of us will compliment our own feasting and gift-giving with small gestures towards those less fortunate than ourselves; perhaps contributing to office collections, or donating food hampers for families in need. What a great way to ‘make an impact’, and think – and act – outside of ourselves. Sometimes I wonder though, who really impacts who? Don’t get me wrong – it’s appropriate that we should help those who’ve lost their footing in a society designed to benefit the rich. But it struck me this week that often it is precisely these people to whom we seem to have so much to give, who in fact might have even more to give to us.

I was on my way in to work on public transit through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I’d had a tricky weekend with moments of frustrating relational conflict; and was heading in to some urgent tasks that should have been undertaken many days earlier. It was not one of my best Monday mornings! Just as I was trying to jolt myself out of my malaise, a precious woman with whom I’d previously exchanged brief pleasantries, got on the bus. Immediately upon seeing me, her face lit up and she exclaimed loudly to everyone on the bus, ‘I recognise that face,’ and we entered in to conversation. I asked how she was, and she said she was well, and launched in to a story about her father who had come through serious surgery, and the son who had saved his life twice and of whom she was very proud.

This lady, apparently ‘in need’ in so many ways, had the most extraordinary impact on me. She was pleased to see me, and I her. From a place of vulnerability, she shared her great delight in the important things in life – of family, and good health. As she did so, I realised that we are not so different after all. For a few brief moments, we shared our common humanity – me on my way to the studio; she on her way to a government-run program. She reminded me of the importance of relationships. She reminded me of what it means to love.

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