"Sometimes you just know what's important. You know without being told." That's what Papa Joe always used to say to us.
Louie and I hurried toward home. It was cold and late. We talked about our visits with him. Papa Joe was old and liked to tell us stories about his life. Each time we went to visit him, he would tell us about what he learned in life. "Now that I'm old," he used to say, "I know what counts.”
“Let me tell you what makes a difference. It's a secret." At first, we didn't want to listen. We thought, "What does he know about us? How can he know what matters to us?" One day, we told him that and he said, "Ah, Lizzie and Louie, it's important to everyone.“ "What is? What is important to everyone?" "It is important to everyone to make a difference. When you make a difference, you know your life has meant something."
"What do you mean by make a difference?" Louie asked. "When you make a difference, you make an impact on someone. You do something that makes someone's life different. It means you make the world a better place,” Grandpa said.
I asked, "How can people make an impact, Papa Joe?" "It can be a little thing," he said, "like smiling at someone who is sad, or helping someone, or cleaning up trash from a river or park, or spreading the news about how to save water, or doing your job even though you don't want to, because you know someone is counting on you.”
Grandpa continued, “It is telling the truth, especially when it's scary to do so, or treating other people the way you want to be treated, or writing a story that touches someone's heart, or painting a picture, or creating a song that helps someone find beauty in the world. Oh, Lizzie, there's so much you can do!"
We were almost home. The wind was colder. The clouds were getting darker and darker, but we felt warm, thinking about Papa Joe. One day I had said to him, "But, Papa Joe, only important people make a difference." "Lizzie, Lizzie, haven't you been listening? Everyone can make an impact. Everyone counts! They just have to care."
As Louie and I talked about Papa Joe, we looked at each other and knew what we had to do. "Louie, Papa Joe made a difference, didn't he? He helped so many people, and he was such a good friend to us. I wish I had told him he made a difference to me. I want to be like him, don't you?" "You're right, Lizzie. Let's start now." Louie knew I was feeling sad. He smiled at me. It was a little thing.
How did Papa Joe communicate his message? What did Papa Joe mean by “make a difference?” What are ways that ordinary people can make a difference? What do you think Louie and Lizzie knew they had to do? Was storytelling a successful form of communication for Papa Joe? Why ? Why not?