Making a Difference

simonelipscomb (7)Several weeks ago I met my friend in the Smoky Mountains for an afternoon photography shoot. As we drove through Cades Cove we caught up with each other and shared a bit about our lives. We are both committed to our paths and want to make a difference in the world and shared our frustration at not really knowing how to do that or if what we are doing is really positively impacting the world.

A friend in Japan has been exploring how she wants to work to help make the world a better place and is frustrated as to how she can do this. She has volunteered in an elephant sanctuary and in the past has worked with marine mammal rescue but she, like others I know, wants to make a difference every day.

Over the past couple of days another friend and I have been in contact about the desire to make a difference in the world. It feels like the HID light was just turned on deep in an underwater cave. His clarity encouraged me.

A funk, for lack of a better word, has been dominating my life for the past several months. I am not sure of the origin of this downward turn. There is so much negative everything happening and the environmental issues coupled with atrocities humans perpetuate on each other have made it difficult to know what to do. After working with vigor and with passion documenting the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and before that, in creating books of beauty and inspiration, all with the goal of making a difference, I find hundreds of books in boxes in my home…their message of beauty and hope sitting tucked away from the world. A perfect metaphor of how I feel. Despondency and feeling a loss as to what I’m really supposed to be doing with my life has been the question that occupies my mind.

simonelipscomb (5)The heart-friend I recently wrote of retired from over thirty years of service to his community. He was a leader as a firefighter and trained in many disciplines so he could be excellent in his work. Rookies and seasoned firefighters alike looked up to him and his valuable skills. His career of rescue work is truly inspiring. Upon retirement he wasn’t doing what he wanted to do…making a difference. It was a terrible adjustment for him as his heart is huge and his intention of service matches the size of his heart. It wasn’t until he followed his path to serve in a war-torn country that he once-again fulfilled, in his mind, his goal. He has found what he was looking for–making a difference.

We follow little breadcrumb thoughts which lead us to decisions. We act on these decisions and make changes in our lives–some are huge, some are small. We direct our energy toward the slow-growing momentum and then hope for the best. But how do we know our efforts really are making a difference? How do we maintain trust in ourselves and in our decisions? Here’s a cave-diving analogy.

Photo by Ed Jackson

Photo by Ed Jackson of me and my buddy Ray and his light in the distance

When cave diving a diver knows that caves are dark. It seems a silly statement but I cannot count the number of times I’ve been asked the question: Are underwater caves really dark? Think of the darkest, inkiest, blackest darkness and then think of it as flowing and moving around you. Yes…underwater caves are dark. So a diver takes redundant equipment into a cave–air and light. Three lights are required equipment–a primary light and two back-up lights. The primary is a very bright, strong light and the back-up lights are smaller and always contain fresh batteries.

Photo by Ed Jackson

Photo by Ed Jackson…Yes, that’s me diving with my buddy, Ray, behind me.

So if I’m diving in a cave and for some reason my primary light fails, out comes a back-up light. If that fails, out comes the other back-up light. If we apply the analogy of cave diving to our lives, think of our life’s path as the primary light. We are born, we develop and learn and find our way to our path. A natural light is emitted from it as we progress. But there comes a time when we lose faith in our path, we find ourselves far from those we love, and who love us, we retire, or move to a new area, and that light wavers and then blinks out. We are left in the dark.

It’s not a happy place, this darkness. It’s difficult to orient ourselves, find our way. Which way do we go? Where is the line? Which tunnel is the way home?

Photo by Ed Jackson

Photo by Ed Jackson….I miss these caves!!!

When this happens we can contact a friend, one of our back-up lights, to help light our way. Sometimes the path we tread must have light from another source. When our own light seems dim, there are others who can help us see the path we have chosen. Their light can help us stay true and move forward when we have lost faith in what we do. We may come to a side tunnel in our underwater cave and the extra light may be necessary to see which way leads us home.

Some may think the primary light in cave diving is the most important but ask any cave diver who has had to deploy a back-up light or two. Those little lights are the real life-savers.

I am grateful for my heart-friend that reminded me to keep working on my path of service. His light encouraged me to stay with it, even when it feels like I am not making a difference. Sometimes I stumble along in darkness and then a ray of light comes forward to illuminate the way.

simonelipscomb (6)May we all be lights unto each other.

Thanks for reading. Please comment or share as you see fit. 

 

 

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