I've told this story before:
Back in 1990, my childhood best friend graciously allowed me to crash in his L.A. apartment so that I could attend a Quantum Leap screening and Q&A at U.C.L.A. During that visit, I became very uncomfortable about the fact that my main contribution to society was writing fanzines about tv shows. Meanwhile, Joel was actively trying to save people from starvation with his political and charitable activities.
Joel didn't make the comparison. I did. Feeling defensive, I tried to explain that my writings about Quantum Leap and Doctor Who were informative and entertaining, even capable of making people feel a little better, more hopeful about the world. But I felt guilty that I wasn't living up to Joel's standards, really making a difference in the world on a macro scale.
Really, though, I knew perfectly well, even then, that I'm not a save-the-world kind of person. I haven't the nerve, the dedication, or frankly even the interest for it. In a choice between "the bleeding crowd" and "a needing friend," I'm much more likely to help the needing friend. Or, more likely still, I'll blog about it, in the hope that my words will be helpful to someone somewhere.
Maybe tomorrow night, when I'm less sore, less busy and less stressed, I'll repost the original entry about this to this blog's archives.
To me, "making a difference" is inextricably bound up with who you are and what you're best suited to do. What you're meant to do, even. It's become very clear to me over the years that what I'm meant to do with my life is compile, synthesize and disseminate information. It may be fictional information or trivia, fact or opinion, or even a set of numbers. Doesn't matter. This is how my brain works, and this is what I'm interested in, and this is what I'm good at. Trying to make a difference by working at a soup kitchen instead of by writing would be a mistake. It would waste my talents and make me miserable, and probably do less good in the long run. The parable of the talents is relevant here. Not to use what I have, as best I can, would be a sin and a tragedy.
But that doesn't mean I never contribute in any other way. On Saturday, I'll try again to give blood, and hope I'm not too anemic this time. I was shocked to learn a few weeks ago that my iron count was too low. That's never happened to me before! It's probably a symptom of the way I've been treating my body recently, through all this stress at work. Nevertheless, I'll donate blood when I can. It's a nearly painless way to save a life.
And tonight we rescued a dog.
I don't know his name, but I'm calling him Sammy, because he looks like a miniature Samoyed. He reminds me very strongly of my childhood plan of breeding Pomeranians back up to sled dog size. He reminds me even more strongly of my dead dog Noodle. Noodle was much bigger, though, and had a golden cast to her white fur. Sammy's fur looks a little bluish, but that may be dust.
Noodle used to look almost exactly like this, only bigger and less delicate.
John and I first spotted Sammy in the middle of the westbound lane of Golf Links Road, standing still until a car pulled up beside him, and then sniffing the car door as if expecting a ride. Mind you, this is a busy road, a major artery for this part of Tucson.
John turned onto a side street to circle back to this foolhardy dog, fretting at every right turn that didn't lead back onto Golf Links. By the time we found the dog again, he was on the sidewalk by the street John initially turned into. A car turned in right behind us, but fortunately did not rear-end us as John cursed and stopped anyway. Sammy got right into the car when I opened the door, with virtually no hesitation.
Sammy is too friendly for his own good.
When we got home, John sent me inside for a leash. We soon learned that the dog had a tag. Good news! That means we should be able to find his owner. Nevertheless, I decided to walk the dog back to the area of the intersection where we found him, in case the owner was driving around looking for him. Sammy was all in favor of this.
It was twilight time, though, and my night vision is almost as bad as my coordination and my frequently-injured ankles. I tripped in a pothole half a block from my house, and fell in the middle of the intersection. It was a very minor intersection, but I was hurt, and I had a strange dog with me, and a car was coming! I struggled to my feet, got back onto the sidewalk on my block, and called John for a ride back.
Don't give me that innocent look! John and I agree: you're a trouble dog!
Tuffy is all freaked out, coming to me every ten minutes for reassurance. In their encounters, it's been little Sammy, a smidge smaller than Tuffy, that's done the growling. Mostly they're getting along okay, though.
And somehow, since coming into this house, Sammy has injured his right rear paw. Maybe it's from the doggie door. There's nothing visibly wrong that John could find, and Sammy didn't pull away when John examined it. But he's not putting any weight on it, either.
Meanwhile, I've sprained my right ankle yet again, and scraped my left knee. The right ankle is the better of the two, and it's not a bad sprain. The scrape hurts worse. I'm bruised in a couple of places, and very sore all over.
Ah, that explains it! Sammy is a devil dog! He's even standing on a sermon!
What a day! At work, the discrepancy in my numbers started around $210K, and climbed to $330K before I found the major problem and got it down to around $50K. I was close to tears a few times. And my boss has started giving some of my other tasks to other people to do. That relieves some of my time pressure, but it makes me feel a little guilty, too - especially when the other person does the job in half the time!
I guess those particular tasks aren't what I'm meant to do after all.
Extra Credit: I have to say, I do admire Joel and his brother Michael for trying to make the world better on a grand scale. I also admire Ila Abernathy from the St. Michael's Social Concerns Committee. Every year she spends a couple of months in Guatemala, helping displaced Mayans in remote villages with economic and justice issues, and especially with access to health care. "I don't do all that much compared to other people," she told my friend Eva a couple of weeks ago. "It's just that what I do is high profile." But I say she does plenty.
P.S. The next Round Robin Photo Challenge has been announced! Appropriately, it's "The Animal Inside," as suggested by Derek. Check out the Round Robin blog for details, and don't forget to RSVP!