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Making a Difference

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A client of mine came in a few months ago and shared the news of her acceptance to FIT. There was just one problem. She has no interest in fashion.

She applied to the program to appease her father, who was convinced that a fashion marketing degree would open the greatest number of doors upon her return to Russia. Not confident in, or even really aware of other educational options here in the states, she followed his advice.

I listened to Anastasia's apprehension about fashion school and asked whether she'd at least considered other programs. Hearing a no, I asked her if she'd like to look at some together.

Fifteen minutes later, this previously-frustrated 18-year-old became aware of -- and really excited about -- a liberal arts degree. She has since applied and been accepted to The New School, where starting this fall, she is going to pursue a dual major in areas that deeply interest her.

A whole new path, a whole new reality that wasn't going to happen anyway. Because of one 15-minute conversation.

Anastasia sent an email to thank me for opening that door for her. But the reality is that she opened the door. I merely showed her where it was.

Often we resist the idea of making a difference, because we're convinced it will take a tremendous amount of our time and energy. Or that we may not have the information or answers others seek.

But people don't necessarily need answers. More often, they just need to be pointed in directions they've yet to see, to have their horizons and notions of what is possible expanded so that they themselves can walk toward them.

And to have someone believe in them and that they can make it, wherever it is they choose to go.

I look back at my own life and see how even simple comments in my late teens and early 20s pushed me -- happily -- in previously-doubted or unthought of directions, as well as where a bit of encouragement or information could have made a big difference in the pursuing of my dreams and goals.

Unfortunately, we forget as we become older, hopefully wiser, and more engrained in our worlds and ways of thinking that what is now obvious to us is not necessarily so to others. Therefore, we don't realize that by sharing a bit of ourselves and our kindness, we have the opportunity to make a huge contribution to other people.

As another example, I recently wrote a letter to my dear friend's son about my thoughts on and experience of college. From a family and community of primarily high school graduates, Andrew passed on applying to universities. This was certainly his choice. But only -- in my mind -- if he was deliberating between at least two equally-presented options.

My letter apparently provided that second option for Andrew, who is now enrolled in his freshman year at San Diego State University.

Opportunities to make a difference are all around us. They may not seem like a big deal; helping with a Google search or writing a letter don't take much time or energy. But that minimal effort on our part can make an exponential contribution to another's life, not only in the new reality that we might help facilitate, but in the impact that is made when one human being takes the time to care about, encourage, and believe in another.

As you walk through your life, listen newly to the dreams and longings that people of all ages share. See whether there are doors they might not have seen, options they may be unaware are possible. By pointing them out, you might make available the very thing that someone -- without knowing it -- has been searching for their whole life.

For more by Jennifer Hamady, click here.

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