Monday, March 8th, 2021

R Shopper Columns


When my wife Karen and I lived in the foothills of Appalachia, we lived in a home that seemed haunted. At night the stairs descending into the dark basement creaked as if someone was walking on them. To make matters worse, nearby, there was a dog that howled like a wolf.

Karen's nine-year-old brother, Bobby, came to visit for a few days. He must have not felt comfortable about the house either because he did not want to sleep in another room by himself. We made a pallet on the floor next to our bed. Above Bobby's head was a small table with a lamp on it. During the night, Karen dreamed someone was trying to kidnap Bobby so she screamed, "Bobby!" in my ear.

I woke up with a jerk. Bobby jolted up and knocked the lamp and table on top of him. Thinking that someone was on him, he began screaming. It took a while for Bobby and me to get settled down. Our heads were splitting with pain and our hearts were beating out of our chests. Then we noticed that Karen was not up. We looked over at the bed to find her sleeping. She had no idea of the crisis she had caused.

I learned a great lesson that evening: we can have a great impact on others and not even know it.

Toward the end of my father's life, he was struggling with whether he had made a difference. He was looking for one more thing to accomplish that would say his life had been significant. Soon after, he had a heart attack. While recuperating, one person after another told him how much he had blessed their lives. He had no idea that he had touched their lives in such ways.

You may have a great impact on others and not even know it. I think this lesson applies to our lives. During one of my growth groups at church, I asked the participants to write down the names of five people and what they did to make a difference in their lives. They were things like, "When I was new in town, she introduced me around and welcomed me." Another one was, "I was doubting myself and this person encouraged me to believe in myself."

I asked if any of those people knew that they had made a difference in our lives. The answer was no.

The illustrations above reaffirm the idea that we can be making a difference in peoples' lives and not even know it. To us, it may not be all that significant, but to the person who needs a kind word, an encourager, a friend, it makes all the difference in the world. What we do may be what someone needs at the time. Our lives may be more significant than we know.

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

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700