Have you ever uttered, “Why bother? It won’t make a difference,” or something like that?
Yeah, I have. Lots of times.
When I started writing and putting my work out in the public forum, I figured few would read my writing, but make a difference? Nah.
Every now and then, a person here and there would contact me via the phone or USPS (pre-Internet), telling me how my published piece affected them that day. As a blessing. As something they needed to hear. As something that made them think. As a reminder. Or, as pure entertainment that took them away from their problem(s) for a bit of time.
I didn’t think too much of those incidences as they were few and far between, though they did make me smile, and I’d put them in my scrapbook. I still didn’t believe I was making a difference. Me? From small town U.S.A.? Who the heck was I to think I could make a difference?
Years later, I started teaching. I watched as students became unblocked. They told me how they were loving writing again or loved writing for the first time ever. That they now understood grammar and punctuation better. Or, how the teacher from grade school or high school who had told them that they’d never be a writer had done them a disservice.
Because of an earlier experience during my bachelor’s degree where I was shown that I was plagiarizing, despite what I had been taught in high school, I became more and more interested in the subject, discovering it was huge problem but little publicized. I started teaching my students on how to avoid plagiarism because I saw them making the same mistake I had made. I wanted plagiarism to never be an issue for them, because not knowing was never an accepted excuse; being accused of plagiarism had and still has dire consequences.
At the time, I had a co-worker who said about my focus on helping students avoid plagiarism and taking the concern university-wide, “Why are you trying to hard? It’s not like you’re going to change the world.”
I forged ahead anyway, because I cared.
My students showed me I was making a difference via their papers. They told me, too. At least, I was making a difference in a small area of the world: my classrooms.
And then later, I graduated with my last degree having written a dissertation, Teaching Students About Plagiarism: What It Looks Like and How It Is Measured, that I chose to make as a free publication, because of the research discovery I made regarding two major studies. One study was pre-Internet, the other post-Internet, where the percentage of actual plagiarism had not changed, which countered those who said the Internet was to blame. That discovery begged the question that became my book’s topic. In publishing the book, I asked to received a monthly summary of its activity.
The book was published in June 2013. To date it has been downloaded 1,499 times to 246 different educational, commercial, organizational, governmental, military, and library institutions in 81 different countries across both North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Had I not requested that monthly summary, I would have never known the extent of its reach.
Have I made a difference? I’d like to think so, both as a writer and as a scholar in this case.
Believe it or not, we all make a difference, regardless of our field of work or where we live: as parents, teachers, military, fire, police, utilities, clerks, assistants, medical, artists, entertainers, rescue, therapists, non-profits, neighbors, communities, and as citizens.
We ALL make a difference and in many different ways throughout our individual lifetimes.
One of the ways where I’ve made a difference just happens to show up on a world-wide map.
So, to those of you who have others trying to stomp on your dreams, your ambitions, your goals, your work…
Ignore the noise and follow your own path.