You Can Make A Difference Easier Than You think

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Deeds, not stones, are the true monuments of the great.
– John L. Motley, American historian and diplomat (1814-1877)

Motley needed to use the word “great” to have his words get noticed. (People used to love that adjective in his time.) That doesn’t mean the advice doesn’t work for everyone.

People may not read about your great deeds 1000 years from now. Then again, few of us read about the deeds of great people of the past who lived 1000 years ago. None of them had a monument built to them in their lifetime.

When you think about the names of people you do know who lived 1000 years ago or more, those whose lives are recorded in history books, not that many of them were warriors. Most were scholars, thinkers, people who explored with their minds. They were people who looked at the same things as everyone else, but saw something different.

Then they wrote about what they saw or thought. Some of them became famous only after the printing press was invented, centuries after their deaths.

Socrates never committed a word to paper (papyrus) so far as we know. He just taught. He taught his students to think critically, to consider all possible sides to any point of discussion, and to reach conclusions they could support. He also taught them to speak their minds, a practice he followed himself until the Senate invited him to snuff out his own life or they would have to accommodate him themselves.

You don’t have to be great in your lifetime to be considered great afterwards. The men who are known today as St. Nicholas and St. Valentine were appreciated by a few of those they helped, but they certainly weren’t heroes in their time.

If you don’t feel competent to think great thoughts–it doesn’t take an expert or scholar, only someone who studies a topic intensely–you can do great deeds. You can help others. Considering how rarely we see people going to great lengths to help others today, a great wealth of people needing help awaits anyone who wants to accept the challenge.

Maybe you won’t receive the key to your city or a Medal of Honor, but you will be remembered. People today tell many stories of strangers who paused in their busy lives to help them. When the keys to the city and medals are gone and forgotten, the good deeds get passed along, often for many generations.

The holy men in whose names we celebrate today at Christmas with gifts and feasting and on February 14th never could have imagined how their deeds of help would be remembered through history. They just did them at the time because other people needed a hand with some things they couldn’t cope with on their own.

That’s not hard. Look around you.

Memory of good deeds you have done will be a greater monument to you through history than anything of stone that anyone might build.

More importantly, the receivers of your good deeds will want to do something good for other people. Maybe without even knowing why.

You will have made a difference.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to make a difference in many lives by teaching children what they need to know before they need it and before they get into trouble because they don’t have what they need.
Learn more at


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