by Dr. Bill Austin
Some dreams are possible and some are not. My father’s favorite song was “The Impossible Dream.”
The song comes from the 1965 Broadway musical, “Man of LaMancha.” The star, Don Quixote, sings the song, as he stands over his armor, in response to Dulcinea’s question about what he means by “following his quest.” For a long time, I think it was a standard that Dad used to judge his life. In his later years, when Karen and I would visit him, he would tell us that he felt that there was something that he needed to accomplish before he died. We would try to explore several ideas but none seemed to attract him. Leaving for home, we felt sad because Dad seemed to be saying that his life was not significant. There was something outstanding, like in that song, that would make his life worthwhile. We did not understand why he felt that way because in our minds, his life had made a significant difference. To me, Dad was my hero and one of the most influential people in my life.
The insight from Dad’s story is that most of us do not realize the difference we are making and have made in other people’s lives. The insight that came to me is that how we feel about our lives as making a difference comes down to what criteria we are using to judge ourselves and our lives. Years later, Dad had a heart attack and it became a spiritual event. People, young and old, came to him at the hospital to tell him how much he had made a difference in their lives. What they shared was not earth shaking to the world, but to them it was. What Dad did for them was what they needed at that time in their lives. I am so glad he heard these affirmations before he died.
Most of us do not realize
the difference we are making
and have made in other people’s lives.
It reminds me of a parable Jesus told. It is called the Last Judgment. In this parable, Jesus is saying, "When I was thirsty, you gave me a cup of water.” To the world a cup of water is not a huge event, but to the man who was thirsty, it was. Jesus goes on to cite other ways the man had made a difference in his life. Afterwards, the man’s response is beautiful. The man asks, “When?” He gave a cup of water to a thirsty person, not for show or attention. He gave because it was his nature to respond to someone’s need.
I would imagine if you shared with someone who made a difference in your life, that person would be surprised and ask, “When?” Perhaps, we are not even aware of how we are making a difference in the lives of others. Maybe we need to have a more realistic way of judging our significance.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700