The scale of difference you want to make may vary between the small but important, to the truly immense.
Making a difference is a very broad church. It involves bringing our humanity to bear in order to positively benefit people, organisations, our society, and future generations.
Differences generally polarize into two types:
- the humanitarian response to suffering in all its forms
- the moral response to perceived failures by governmental, non-governmental, or commercial organisations to behave with integrity and compassion, or to respond with energy to the environmental challenges facing the planet.
The first includes the response to famine in foreign lands, or to the homeless on your doorstep. The second includes response to an organisation that bullies and manipulates its workers or suppliers, or ignores its responsibilities to the environment.
In essence, making a difference is the manifestation of the desire to improve the lot of your fellow man or woman, to an extent that reflects how ambitious you are, and how effective you are at influencing events and making things happen.
The people who want to make differences on a grand, societal scale are the Difference Drivers. These are often aided by the Difference Deliverers.
The people who make personal, often one-to-one, differences are the Beneficial Presences. Although their global impact is less ambitious, the difference made to the recipients can be colossal.
Let’s look at the different scale of the difference makers, so you can see where your purpose, and your ambitions, may fit in.
Difference Drivers intend to make waves, and change paradigms. They want to leave a legacy, and they want that legacy to be in the public domain.
They tilt at windmills, and sometimes they knock the windmills over. They find a situation in the organisation they work for, the community they are part of, or the society they live in, jars with their personal values, and they set out to change it.
Difference Drivers are passionate antagonists of the status quo. Great pioneering charities like Greenpeace and Amnesty International were started by Difference Drivers. Nelson Mandela (who evolved into a serene Beneficial Presence) spent most of his life as a Difference Driver.
Difference Deliverers are the people who consciously set out to make a difference, and do so. Though the individual act or acts may at times seem small, their contribution to the overall impact can be vital.
Most of us fit into this category. Often the acts of Difference Deliverers can be in supporting Difference Drivers. It is very rarely social change is brought about by one person working alone. You can’t start a movement for change without having people in that movement.
Sometimes these helpful foot soldiers can be just as brave and committed as the Difference Driver him or herself. Lech Walesa, the visionary leader of the freedom movement in Poland, which was instrumental in the final toppling of communism in that country and subsequently Eastern Europe, was a shop steward in the shipyards. It took courage for him to stand up and resist an ugly, authoritarian, regime, but it took just as much courage for the individual shipyard workers in Gdansk to resist the soldiers and secret police coercing them back to work.
Most Difference Delivers operate individually or in small teams. The differences they make are important, whether they are on the level of family, job, community, distinct groups in need of succour or support, or on a societal level.
The differences may appear relatively small, but cumulatively they can become huge, and immensely worthwhile.
Beneficial Presences are the people who make a difference through living who they are.
Their purpose is to love and cherish other human beings, and they gain their meaning from compassion for, and service to, others.
Some are just natural servers, or are naturally compassionate. Others have to work at it.
They add huge value to other human beings just by making them feel valued.
The legacy they leave is usually in the private domain. They are loved by those around them. When they die, their funerals often see mourners turn up in large numbers, most of whom do no know each other, and who had no idea the person they are mourning touched so many lives. They are sometimes revered, but are not usually aware of it. Their reward is in personal fulfilment, not changing the world.
Other Beneficial Presences have no one at their funeral. The profound difference they made to someone who might have suffered prolonged incapacity may have excluded everything else. The hugely generous act of dedicating their life to another human being meant they couldn’t touch the lives of others, because all their energies were focused on helping just one person.
Which category do you fit into?
(Click here to return to the Living Legacy template.)