Are You Making a Difference or Are You Making The Difference?
ARE YOU MAKING A DIFFERENCE OR ARE YOU MAKING THE DIFFERENCE?
July is a month where we commemorate a number of significant days. Among those celebratory days, the most significant of them is Independence Day. Although few things can top the birth of a nation, there are some lesser known days that are certainly worth celebrating.
In addition to July 4th, there is July 15th. For any who have been living under a rock from 1965 to today, July 15th is the day where the nation – scratch that – where the world stops to celebrate the day I was born. Okay, maybe the world doesn’t actually stop to acknowledge me (YET) but trust me a few people in the U.S. happily celebrate the day with me.
NATIONAL MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO CHILDREN MONTH
Enough about me. Instead, let’s turn our attention to a little-known event that occurs in July which is truly worth our attention. July – that means all thirty-one days – is “National Make a Difference to Children Month“.
In 2006, child advocate Kim Ratz initiated an annual observance where parents, providers, and people who care about kids would be encouraged to find ways to “Make a Difference to Children” in July, and year-round. For nearly a decade, Mr. Ratz has led a grassroots campaign to get adults to be more engaged in the lives of children. Per Mr. Ratz’s website his appeal is to be carried out in four key ways (Ratz n.d.):
- Pick one (or more) event or activity to do with a child (in addition to your own children; a child you know, and whose parents know you) — that will make some kind of positive difference or impact on that child. A list of 100+ ideas for home, work, your place of worship, & in the community to make a positive difference to children can be found at 100+ Ways to Make a Difference to Children.
- Support an organization that serves children …It could be your local community education dept. or public schools, YMCA, Boy or Girl Scouts, place of worship, park and recreation or any other organization that serves kids. Your support might be as a volunteer or a financial donation. They’re all non-profits, and in today’s economy, they need your support!
- Tell your policymakers to support initiatives that are good for kids … like your school board, city council, county commissioners, state legislators & congressional delegation; summer is generally a more relaxed time to communicate with them. Share your own story about Making a Difference to Children … and WHY it’s important to support programs for children …
- Tell other people about this campaign …like your neighbors, relatives, friends, people at work, worship, school or play – Print out this one-page flyer and post … Forward the e-mail you received with the link to this page to others who would be interested and act …
JUST MY TWO CENTS
I’m sure that it will come as no surprise that I completely agree with and wholeheartedly support Mr. Ratz’s campaign. While I have not yet met Mr. Ratz, I believe Mr. Ratz would most likely concur with me when I state that “the future of a society is contingent on the way we treat and raise children“.
Notwithstanding my belief and support of Mr. Ratz’s efforts, I’m going to ask parents and adults everywhere to go a step further than Mr. Ratz has previously asked. I’m asking parents and adults to go beyond making “a” difference and commit to making “the” difference in the lives of ALL children.
LIKE BLACK AND WHITE
Children require more than parents and adults who “make a difference”. Children deserve parents and need adults who “make the difference”. The variance between “making a difference” and “making the difference” is enormous. The two seemingly identical phrases are as distinguishable as are the colors: black and white.
“Making a difference” could be and is most often a one-time event – volunteering for a semester, speaking to a group of students, or driving a group of kids to practice. The inconvenient and uncomfortable truth – for many of us who just want to feel good about our volunteering and/or mentoring participation – is that “making a difference” is little more than the dilapidated foundation on which most mentoring and charitable organizations stand.
From city to city and from state to state, there is an overabundance of organizations where adults swoop in once a week or once a month, spend an hour or more tutoring or sharing a meal with a child and then jettison back to our homogenous communities and pretentious daily routines. It is we, the “better offs”, who haughtily believe that we are “making the difference” because we show up for the once a week tutoring sessions, once a month mentoring activity or our one-time motivational speech. Boy, are we ever mistaken because nothing could be further from the truth!
MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
If we are serious about improving the world – which requires that we give ALL children a chance to fulfill their potential and maximize their God-given ability – parents and adults alike are going to have to be real about what it means to “make the difference”. And if we are going to “make a difference”, we must stop being delusional and dishonest about our commitment to ALL children.
“Making the difference” is a commitment that extends far beyond fraternal societies, social clubs, not-for-profit organizations and governmental initiatives. “Making the difference” is so much more than weekly tutoring, monthly mentoring excursions, end-of-the-year galas, and inspirational speeches. “Making the difference” means being attentive and purposefully engaged in a child’s life 24/7/365. “Making the difference” means making sure the needs of ALL children are met equally regardless of age, race, gender, socioeconomic standing, national origin, ethnic background, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.
BE THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
So in accordance with “National Make a Difference to Children Month”, I’m raising the bar of expectations for all those who profess to care about children. For starters, I’m asking all parents to be the Difference Maker in their child’s life. Let’s face it, the world needs more parents and adults who understand the transformational power they can have in a child’s life when they are completely committed to the success and wellbeing of children.
Secondly, I’m asking all adults who are currently engaged in the lives of children to do more for children than you are already doing. To quote a wise young man whose advice I accept freely, “it’s not too late to do more”.
There is just no way around it, the world needs more parents and adults who are “making the difference” and who will never settle for “making a difference”. And when those of us who profess to care for children truly commit to “making the difference” the proof will be undeniable. The precise moment we commit to “making the difference” is the very day we will eliminate childhood hunger, eradicate youth violence, wipe out adolescent homelessness, provide a world class education for ALL children and mandate that ALL children be afforded the same opportunity to be equal beneficiaries and full contributors to the Nation.
Are you “making a difference” or are you “making the difference”? Do you even know what the word “difference” means?