I got a call out of the blue this week from “NK”, a now 24 year old man, who was my “Junior Partner” through Denver Partners, a local mentoring nonprofit, for 3 years starting when he was seven.  I had not heard from him in 12 years and was thrilled he made the effort to reconnect with me.  I can’t even begin to tell you the dysfunction of his life and family at that time but we spent 3-10 hours a week doing a whole range of things that I knew at the time we both benefitted from – just hanging out and cooking dinner together to taking him for his first meal in a restaurant where you tip the waitress, to fishing for carp in my apartment complex pond.  It was just after my divorce and we had a lot of fun together – filled a hole for both of us.  I have so many happy memories and tough moments interwoven from my time with him.

During our call, I was moved to tears hearing him talk with such joy and nostalgia about some of the little things we did together – many of which I had totally forgotten or really had felt had been no big deal to me at the time – and how it has influenced his path.  For one example, I used to let him play with my computer and he told me that had truly tweaked his interest and he started studying on his own and he now does graphic design and websites as a hobby business.

He shared about his life now and I was so proud of him. He was a bit afraid to tell me he was a truck driver and hadn’t gone to college and it was great to ask whether he was happy and let him know that is what matters most – not the piece of paper.

I was sad to hear his older sister ended up going down the exotic dancer, drug and alcohol route and they don’t even know where she is now or whether she is even alive.  NK was in a mental health juvenile facility for a while and I used to visit him there – so he could so easily have gone the route of his sister but he did not.  And I had some small part in helping him choose another path, I now know.

The whole conversation was such a wonderful reminder that whenever we share of ourselves, we ARE making a difference.  We never know when a small kindness that may seem miniscule to us in the moment can truly impact another person’s life in ways we may never get to know. I know I truly did make a difference with NK and I am grateful for his being in my life.  It inspires me to stay open and be as generous with my time and sharing of myself as I can be – it does not require dollars.  Sometimes the biggest gifts we can give have no dollar signs attached to them.

What can you do this year to give of yourself and make a deep, lasting difference in someone’s life?