What Difference Does It Make?

What Difference Does It Make?

My chance to vote for a candidate for president is still weeks away. (Wait, don’t go! I promise this isn’t a post just about politics.) I watch the news reports of the outcomes in states that seem to matter more than mine, and though I’m still not 100 percent certain about who I am voting for, I’ve started to wonder how I should vote.

Should I cast my vote for the person I think is best, even if it looks like they have no shot at winning the nomination? Or should I pick a person who has a better chance of beating the person I definitely don’t want as president?

Ultimately, I wonder, does my vote even matter? Will it be too late by the time I cast it?

This is, unfortunately, how I look at my life, too. I want my life to matter. I want my actions to make a difference. I want to know I changed something or someone because I lived. I don’t ask for much, do I?

Truthfully, I want to make a BIG SPLASH. I want to be a part of something that is making a HUGE DIFFERENCE in people’s lives. I want others to see what I’m doing and be inspired. (Ugh, that sounds so prideful as I type it. Probably because it is.)

I don’t know if any of us want to live our lives unknown. But the reality is that few of us are remembered beyond a generation or two after our deaths. That’s sobering. The Bible says we wither like grass and fade away. Here today, gone tomorrow. Even people we considered “great” from history are mostly unknown to future generations. A select few get their names in history books, but for the most part, all the people who ever lived are forgotten.

Depressing, right?

But maybe it doesn’t have to be.

Yes, I will be forgotten someday, but that doesn’t mean my life has no value or my actions are meaningless. Ripples in a pond are not flashy, but they change the surface of the water, even if just for a moment.

A big splash might make a temporary impact, but a ripple can have a further one.

Perhaps that’s a better way to look at my life.

My actions may be small, seemingly insignificant, but what if I’m making ripples that are reaching those around me?

I was talking this over with a new friend recently. Since my husband and I got back from a short-term mission trip to Kenya last summer, I’ve felt like I haven’t done anything with what I learned and felt while I was there. Like life has gone completely back to normal. Except it hasn’t. But outwardly, unless I told you, you probably wouldn’t know I’d even been to Africa. It’s been seven months since our return, and I feel like I should have been compelled to take some kind of action by now.

But as we were talking, I told her about how my kids talk about Africa a lot now, especially our daughter. They seek out books about Africa and consult our globe for where countries are located. Our daughter is trying to learn some Spanish words so she can better communicate with a new girl in her class who doesn’t speak much English. I don’t know if I can take credit for any of this, but we are raising our kids to know and care about the world beyond where we live and work every day. That’s not nothing.

I might not make a big splash by launching an idea that will change anyone’s life in Africa tomorrow, but what if I’m raising a daughter who will? (I’m not putting that pressure on her, but I notice her personality and her gifts and I wonder what God will do.)

What if this ordinary life I’m living is having a ripple effect I can’t see?

Maybe my vote in the election won’t matter, but this I know: I want to go on record as choosing the person I think is best for our country, whether that person has a shot at winning or not.

In my everyday ordinary life, I want to go on record, too.

I want to cast my vote for love. For forgiveness. And grace. Even if those things aren’t returned or appreciated at the time, I want to choose them anyway.

I want to live my days with meaning and intention, even if it seems like nothing is changing. I want to remember that little drops collected over time become a puddle, and small actions add up.

Reza Shayestehpour via unsplash

Reza Shayestehpour via unsplash

It doesn’t matter if I ever see the effects of my life.

What matters is that I know that moments matter. My life matters.

When I became a stay-at-home mom almost 8 years ago, I had an internal crisis of purpose. I had worked full-time before that and my days were measured by the content I produced. The tasks I could check off each day. Being home with an infant was nothing like that, and I began to wonder if I mattered anymore.

But that baby is now the girl with a big heart for people. With a stubborn will that sometimes drives me crazy but will be an asset to her someday. With creative ideas about life. Sure, she’s still a girl in the midst of growing up, but I can see–when I look hard enough–how the little things have added up.

So, to the mom at home with babies changing diapers for the umpteenth time today, remember this: You matter, and you are making a difference in the world.

To the woman who spends her days working a job she hates to put food on the table, remember this: You matter, and you are making a difference in the world.

To the lady whose health is failing, or to whom age is catching up with, remember this: You matter, and you are making a difference in the world.

To the ones who labor hard with little return, whose love is returned with hate, whose days seem soul-crushingly ordinary: Don’t believe for a minute that the little bits of yourself you offer to the world are worthless. We need your unique take on life, your individual brand of love, your gifts and talents.

We need you, and you are making a difference.

Try not to worry about whether you can see it or not. Just keep tossing rocks into the pond and trust that the ripples you create are changing something somewhere.

Lisa Bartelt About Lisa Bartelt

Lisa has been writing stories for more than a decade, first for newspapers and now as a freelancer, blogger and budding novelist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. Read more at her blog, Beauty on the Backroads.


  1. I liked what you said about living our lives with intention. We have to trust God and allow Him to do His thing through us. Each small thing we do builds upon someone else’s and it all makes a difference, even though we may never even realize it.

    You make a good point here about wanting to leave a legacy. We all want this, but really, even if we do wildly cool and popular things our legacy is whatever God has done in us, and I’ll bet we’ll be very surprised when we get to heaven and see God found important.

  2. Great reminder! I know how you feel about wanting to make a difference but then feeling like you’re sounding prideful. But it’s not about me. I want desperately to accomplish that which God has called me to do. I believe when we surrender to God’s will and purpose in our lives, we do make a difference. We may not realize it until we stand before Him and He rewards us for what we did for His sake. We keep on doing what we’re doing and shun the pull downward. Thanks for your encouraging words today!

  3. Like your analogy of a pond with ripple effects. Thought provoking. Our preacher once asked if we’d rather be like a pond or a river. He used some of your thoughts also. My desire is to be a woman of God whether I am currently in a pond or river.

  4. Your post confirms words that the Lord has been speaking to me recently as I asked similar questions of life. 1Thessalonians 4:11 lets us know that most people won’t be called upon to make that big public splash for God, it will be the millions who live their lives quietly, doing little, everyday chores and neighborly encouragements that grow the kingdom of God on earth.

  5. You’re right, Cherie, about being surprised someday at what God did through us. That’s why I try not to make that my focus, rather just living faithfully daily. Which I also do imperfectly!

  6. Lisa, I can identify with you completely in this! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and causing us to reflect on what’s truly important. God bless!


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