Most of us need external validation for our usefulness and we measure it by something tangible which may range from a simple heartfelt 'thank you' card to a big bonus and promotion. One's professional life affords more opportunities for feeling useful and one does feel a reduction in one's worth when one has given up employment. I mean who thanks you for a meal well- made and served timely day after day or for just staying in the house and attending to the dhobi, courier, mailman, veg vendor, carpenter, plumber, electrician while they roam the world doing worthwhile things? The only recognition you get then is by being identified "Mrs. So and so" or 'so and so's mom'! I have personally felt rather useless since I gave up my job and there are times I have judged myself deadwood. It can be quite frustrating when you don't feel you are contributing anything to society and that you are nothing but a consumer of goods and services provided by others. One doesn't realise that it is possible that one can still make a difference to others by just by listening, by being supportive or by being non-judgemental - by just being there. So it was quite a surprise when someone recently explained to me how I had made a difference to his life when he had hit rock bottom. I was confused and asked him what I had done to deserve this kind of gratitude and he said "you were there, you did not crtiticise me and you did not give up on me."
He was thanking me for NOT doing anything - I had no idea that you could make a difference to someone simply by not doing anything. A bit like "They also serve who only stand and wait."
And the irony is that he did not realise how much he had boosted my sagging self worth by telling me this - He made a difference to me too!

If this sounds a bit like the chicken soupy stuff that you receive in email, it was indeed an email from a friend this morning that provoked me to write this post:
A teacher in New York decided to honor each of her seniors in high school by telling them the difference they each made. She called each student to the front
of the class, one at a time. First she told each of them how they had made a difference to her and the class.

Then she presented each of them with a blue ribbon imprinted with gold letters, which read, "Who I Am Makes a Difference."

Afterwards the teacher decided to do a class project to see what kind of impact recognition would have on a community. She gave each of the students three more
ribbons and instructed them to go out and spread this acknowledgment ceremony. Then they were to follow up the results, see who honored whom and report back to the class in about a week.

One of the boys in the class went to a junior executive in a nearby company and honored him for helping him with his career planning. He gave him a blue ribbon and put it on his shirt. Then he gave him two extra ribbons and said, "We're doing a class project on recognition, and we'd like you to go out find somebody to honor, give them a blue ribbon, then give them the extra blue ribbon so they can acknowledge a third person to keep this acknowledgment ceremony going. Then please report back to me and tell me what happened."

Later that day the junior executive went in to see his boss, who had been noted, by the way, as being kind of a grouchy fellow. He sat his boss down and he told him that he deeply admired him for being a creative genius.

The boss seemed very surprised. The junior executive asked him if he would accept the gift of the blue ribbon and would he give him permission to put it on him. His surprised boss said, "Well, sure." The junior executive took the blue ribbon and placed it right on his boss's jacket above his heart.

As he gave him the last extra ribbon, he said, "Would you do me a favor? Would you take this extra ribbon and pass it on by honoring somebody else? The young
boy who first gave me the ribbons is doing a project in school and we want to keep this recognition ceremony going and find out how it affects people."

That night the boss came home to his 14-year-old son and sat him down. He said, "The most incredible thing happened to me today. I was in my office and one of
the junior executives came in and told me he admired me and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine. He thinks I'm a creative genius. Then he put
this blue ribbon that says: "Who I Am Makes a Difference, on my jacket above my heart. He gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to
honor. As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about whom I would honor with this ribbon and I thought about you.

I want to honor you. My days are really hectic and when I come home I don't pay a lot of attention to you. Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school and for your bedroom being a mess, but somehow tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me. Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You're a great kid and I love you!"

The startled boy started to sob and sob, and he couldn't stop crying. His whole body shook. He looked up at his father and said through his tears, "Dad, earlier tonight I sat in my room and wrote a letter to you and Mom explaining why I had killed myself and asking you to forgive me. I was going to commit suicide tonight after you were asleep. I just didn't think that you cared at all. The letter is upstairs.
I don't think I need it after all."

His father walked upstairs and found a heartfelt letter full of anguish and pain. The envelope was addressed, "Mom and Dad."

The boss went back to work a changed man. He was no longer a grouch but made sure to let all his employees know that they made a difference. The junior executive
helped several other young people with career planning and never forgot to let them know that they made a difference in his being the boss's son.

And the young boy and his classmates learned a valuable lesson. Who you are DOES make difference.

Send it to all of the people who mean anything important to you, or send it to the one, two, or three people who mean the most. Or just smile and know that someone thinks that you are important, or you wouldn't have received this in the first place. Remember that!
I give you a blue ribbon.


So why am I posting this here? So you all know that every time you read my posts and take the time to share your thoughts, opinions and comments you make a difference to me. Go pass the blue ribbon to someone else.
33 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    i write this comment with moist eyes!

    u made my day..THANK YOU!

    and I know exactly whom to pass it on!! ofcourse assuming you don't mind me copying it..?

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I have always felt that you should not see your worth through the eyes of others. If you do, you run the risk of complacency and a swollen head without deserving it. At the same time, you run the risk of losing self-worth because there are not people good enough to appreciate you. A sense of self, in the true, rational sense, is what prevents this from happening.
    This does not mean that you shouldn't feel good when you are appreciated or praised. Not at all. It just means that even if praise and acknowledgment are not forthcoming, you don't lose heart. you are doing what you are NOT for appreciation, but because you believe you need to do it or are obligated to do so.
    All said and done, a heartfelt post, and well appreciated.
    Now where does a man pin ribbons on to women without being accused of sexual harassment?

  3. touchy.

    you have made difference to me already...

    thank you for such a wonderful post...

  4. Aqua Says:

    a moving post as always. I'm teary eyed after reading this post (not a good thing coz i'm supposed to be "working" :)

    thanks for sharing this!

  5. ~nm Says:

    So beautiful! So touching!

    I will definitely try to make this a habit of telling the other person that I admire her/him. I know it will make a difference to them and to me too!!

  6. Altoid Says:

    Oh, I can give you an eternal blue ribbon Usha. You always make a difference with what you have to say and the things you do. Always a fresh perspective on things, a positive outlook, or just little pointers at whats wrong in the world we all live in.

    A good read for the morning :). Have a great day and many hugs!

  7. That was a very touching story...

    I should think you would get a lot of blue ribbons dear Usha...
    Dunno if it isn't true, but somehow you come across as a person who has very definite views on life, and yet isn't judgemental of others who differ. And you know, the biggest compliment I can think of giving you is that I think you would make a very nice Mom-in-law.
    Have been busy lately, but I do take the time to read thru your posts even if i don't comment always.

  8. dipali Says:

    Usha, just being there for others is so important. Whether in the real or virtual world, it matters.
    You matter.
    Really and truly.

  9. Hip Grandma Says:

    Nice story.Thanks for sharing it.and i'd need several meters of blue ribbons since I have so many people whom I need to give blue ribbons.

  10. Suku Says:

    This was an incredible post! You dont realize how much of a difference you can make until to you are made aware.

    Usha, you too make a huge difference with your writings and I thank you for that!

  11. Savani Says:

    We all need chicken soup from time to time. Your act of kindness by not judging was BIG. It's not an easy task to do. Thanks for sharing that other wonderful story. Very, very inspirational.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Really touching...wonderful reading!

  13. Dhanya Says:

    That was a nice read.. Thanks a lot..
    And I'm giving the blue ribbon back to you for making my otherwise dull evenings thought provoking with your wonderful posts..

  14. Mahadevan Says:

    "One doesn't realise that it is possible that one can still make a difference to others by just by listening, by being supportive or by being non-judgemental - by just being there"

    Just quoting these lines, and living upto them, is the greatest compliment to you.

  15. Keshi Says:

    Im all teary now. What a beautiful post dahlin. HUGGGGGGGGGGZ! ty for this and Im giving it bak to u...we r friends for life!

    Differences dun make a friendship...similarities do. U and I r human and we share the same love. I LOVE YA my friend!


  16. dame's diary Says:

    Wow.. poignant!
    Thanks Usha....

  17. Anonymous Says:

    I absolutely need to read your blog everyday & check for new posts. Whenever I write a new post, I'm thinking, What'll Usha's views on this, be? Really. You are an inspiration to me.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    and I give it to u also; how foolish of me to forget...

    lov and cheers..

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Usha,Thats an incredible story. Its so nice to read itself, wonder how the real people who experienced this might have felt..
    Well, I am picking this story and sending as an email to people who made a difference, since I don't have a blog :-)

  20. usha, what an encouraging has been raining non stop for three full days in johannesburg, and this post was a bright warm ray of sunshine...ure posts really are an need never feel like a fifth wheel..all that you do know, is a lot more work,with not much recognition in the world out there, but it is so needed, here's a blue ribbon just for you :)

  21. Raj Says:

    I have always liked Milton's line, "They also serve who stand and wait" that you have used. Helps to justify my procrastination or inaction or apathy. Not that you were guilty of any of these, in the context that you have explained.

  22. Prashanth Says:

    Thank you....
    It boosted up my confidence...

  23. Choxbox Says:

    that was a great post usha.

  24. Lavs Says:

    I had received this forwarded email a long time ago. I have learnt early in life to always express feelings and affection openly coz I do not want to feel bad later in life about the missed opportunities. I am lucky to have found a life partner who appreciates and expresses love without inhibitions. I appreciate and thank hubby dear even for mundane jobs like taking time out and cleaning cobwebs (not reachable by me), moving a heavy piece of furniture, etc. He thanks me for cooking food and doing household jobs such that he is left free to pursue his career. A little appreciation and love goes a long way in healing this world and making it a better place to live not only for us but also for others.

  25. A very touching post. In the heap of garbage mails, at times, mails like these move you and make you feel all is not lost. I received a similar email about suffering that translated to a post :

  26. noon Says:

    A blue ribbon to you too! For all your posts that make us think about the little things in life and for your nice comments too...
    Gosh I can hardly believe that story..what a nice idea really! And that suicide letter - did that really happen?!

  27. Anonymous Says:

    Lovely post, thanks for sharing that mail. Reminded me of a friend who did make a difference by always being there but somehow we have fallen apart. Can't do anything now as the whole thing has blown out of proportions and then my other friends will think that I have joined hands with enemy, if they come to know that I have contacted her. Why does it have to be so complicated?? These other friends have made a difference too but so has the ex-friend.....

    Don't know why I am writing this, but your post made me think about this dear friend I lost. I did tell her how much I appreciated her while we were still friends. I wish I could give a blue ribbon to her along with my other friends and family.

    The boss sitting his son down to tell him how he has made a difference and saves him from commiting suicide, is a good reminder - to let others know asap how much their action( or non-action as in your case) meant to us, cos we don't know what life has in store for us the very next moment.

    Very touching post, Usha. Thanks again for sharing it.

  28. Usha Says:

    Thanks and hugs to all.

    Doc: I agree on the pitfalls of measuring one's worth through the eyes of others. I was only referring to the natural human failing in doing this.
    How about handing over the ribbon with no pins attached ?!

    JLT: I hope my D-I-L shares your view. we will see.

  29. you know, we often prevent ourselves from doing or saying things because they are considered cheesy or chicken soupy. why is that such a bad thing? if something makes you stop and think i dont care what it comes across as. thanks for a great post as usual Usha. I've missed so many posts. I think my bloglinx roll isnt updating properly.

  30. Usha Says:

    Thank you. I wondered if it was just me who feels uplifted by such warm posts and now I know we all could do with some every once in a while.

  31. hi usha...a blue ribbon to u..
    gr8 one..

  32. WhatsInAName Says:

    What a wonderful post, Usha.
    Makes me feel ashamed of all those reckless thankless words thrown at people in a fit of impatience. Its so sad that we take so much for granted in life.
    And yes, you do deserve a blue ribbon everday from me for opening my eyes.

  33. Rithish Says:

    Nice.. for the fact that the post makes one think.. :o)