making difference

I attended a funeral this morning, for a person here at work. I didn’t know him well, but I went to pay respects and witness the passing of his life.

It was a very touching service. His four now-orphaned sons addressed the congregants, an honor guard from the Legion post offered a salute to recognize his service to country, his best friend spoke, and as you would anticipate, there was not a dry eye in the chapel.

As the priest spoke, offering reassurance to the sons, hope to the friends, and the promise of the life after to all in attendance, he said something that stuck in my head, is still stuck in my head. He said that he hoped when we all finished our day, that we could answer the question “Did you make a difference in your life or another’s today?”

“Did you make a difference?”

Simple words, but complex as well. I’ve often proposed to my students that architecture is about making difference. I believe that. Architects make something present. As I sat in the orange and blue light from the stained glass today I was thinking about the nature of difference.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists one definition as “a particular instance of unlikeness” and “A mark, device, or characteristic feature, which distinguishes one thing or set of things from another.”

So how does one make difference? How long does difference last? I’m not sure this is what the Priest was proposing, but to make difference in someone’s life might be through a kindness, through the unexpected, and I struggle to find ways beyond the kindness. I don’t think making a negative difference is what the Priest had in mind, although technically, it would be difference. Having a cloud fall on your head, or a tire go flat would be differences, but not positive ones. I think I’ll stick to the open a door, help a stranger, look after your friends, those sorts of things. But when he said “a difference in your life” that threw me. How can I make difference in my life? Stopping a bad habit, dropping my guard a bit more, enjoying each day a bit more, … maybe. Go to the gym, take the stairs, those sorts of things? Maybe.

Difference making takes some more thought I can tell.

All this comes around to Nolen and his sons. You could tell he had made difference for them, particularly after their mother passed away. Mostly what they spoke of was his being there. I think thats a difference I can do, will do. Be more present, less distracted, more substantial in my efforts, we’ll see if its enough.

Look after each other, be good to each other,
and make that difference for each other
and you

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