An Encouraging Word – Making a difference?

Father J. Ronald Knott

Father J. Ronald Knott

Your kindness will have its effect. Sirach 12:1

A few months back, I turned 73. If I think about it too much I begin to panic. My doctor tells me that I am quite healthy “for my age.” However, I visit too many hospitals and nursing homes not to understand that bad things, life-changing things, can happen in a flash!

This does not cause me to obsess about possible disasters, but it does motivate me to think about what my life has meant to those who know me.

When I am in a reflective mood, it doesn’t take me long to realize just how lucky I am to know that my life has meant something. I have no children to leave behind, no business bearing my name, no monument saying I have accomplished an important mission. How do I know that my life mattered? I know because people tell me so.

This past Christmas I received some incredible gifts. I am not talking about the amazing generosity that people showed in support of my beloved island mission projects or personal presents that could be wrapped and placed under a tree.

What I am talking about is (1) the truly warm reception I have received since I have returned to the Cathedral as a regular fill-in on Sundays and Mondays. Even though I have been gone for almost 20 years, I am treated like I left just last year.

I am also referring to (2) the mound of affirming notes (probably a hundred plus) that I received expressing appreciation for this very column. They came from Louisville, Glasgow, Elizabethtown, Bardstown, Loretto, Simpsonville, Brandenburg, Lebanon, La Grange, Bonnieville, New Albany, Union Star, Jeffersonville, Radcliff, Cox’s Creek, Shepherdsville, Prospect, Springfield and some far-off places like Wake Forest, N.C., to name just a few.

Many of those notes tell me that what I write about they find extremely helpful and encouraging on a personal level as they read, reread and share them with family and friends. Many beg me not to stop, even after almost 15 years of writing this column. The best notes are so personal that I can’t share them. Writing this column might just be the most effective thing I do as a priest. By offering an Encouraging Word every week, a river of encouragement flows back to me.

Have you made a difference in someone else’s life? Do you know? How do you know? Do you even care? As New York Times best-selling author, Mandy Hale, put it, “To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect. You just have to care.”

Her words remind me of the words of St. Gregory the Great, “The preacher must dip his pen into the blood of his own heart if he is to reach the ears of his hearers.”
If your presence doesn’t have an impact, then your absence won’t make a difference.

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