Can I make a difference?

Last week, I spoke with some pretty amazing members of our community that are making reading a priority in their lives. They were all doing different things (and you can read more about their stories in the Daily Herald this week), but they were all making a difference in the lives of other community members. My conversations with them started me thinking about the impact that one person can make in someone else’s life.

A lot of the time, it’s hard to see the effect of what we do. Many times, people come into our lives briefly—for a day or a month or a year—and then move on. How could anything we do make a difference? And, more importantly, how could doing something as simple and routine as, say, reading together change anyone’s life for the better?

There are many statistics that tell us why reading matters and how reading together can improve a child’s chances for the future. Those facts are important, and they help us understand the seriousness of the word gap and other reading challenges that our community faces. But I didn’t fully appreciate the influence that reading can have on a life until I heard stories of how our neighbors and friends impacted the lives of the people around them through simple acts every day.

I heard stories about how friendships grew stronger through reading favorite books together. I heard stories about how neighborhoods grew closer through creative projects that were inspired by characters in a beloved book. I heard stories about children struggling in school who found success and encouragement as they worked with dedicated tutors. I heard stories about tutors who found ways to relate more to their own children as they read with students in local schools. I heard stories about lives being changed.

It’s sometimes easy, in our hectic lives, to think that we don’t have time to add one more thing to our plates. With all of our different responsibilities, how can we find an extra hour a week to spend tutoring or reading or helping out in our neighborhoods? Maybe some weeks we truly can’t find a spare hour, but we can still find something to do to help. We can pick up a few extra books from the library to share with friends. We can talk about what we are reading while we eat dinner together. We can make reading together a priority. That’s all it takes to change someone’s life. We can all make a difference.