What Difference Do We Make?

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Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts has turned the Big 50:


Yeah.  50.   To quote Alec Guinness from the classic The Bridge on the River Kwai:

There are times when suddenly you realize you’re nearer the end than the beginning. And you wonder, you ask yourself, what the sum total of your life represents. What difference your being there at any time made to anything. Hardly made any difference at all, really, particularly in comparison with other men’s careers. I don’t know whether that kind of thinking’s very healthy, but I must admit I’ve had some thoughts on those lines from time to time.

Yep.  Time to reflect.  And since I’ve been told that everyone has planned a full, rich weekend, I’ll be scarce until Monday.  Please feel free to comment.  That’s one of the reasons I blog.  It helps me see insights from others, even if they inexplicably reject my wisdom.

Thanks for all the visits, and I’ll see everyone at the start of my next half century!  TTFN.


Go here to read the comments.

Alec Guinness plays Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson, absolutely indomitable in the face of the most savage treatment from his captors.  Ultimately he wins his war of nerves with his captor, Colonel Saito, over the issue of whether British officers must work in other than an administrative captivity, but fails to understand that by building the bridge he is collaborating with the enemy.  Nicholson is a man of rules and discipline and in many ways he is a heroic figure, willing to die to uphold what he perceives as civilized standards, and is beloved of his men who he also loves.  However, he is a tragic hero in that he fails to see that following what he thinks are the rules in this circumstance will benefit the enemy by building them a strategic rail bridge.   He rectifies his mistake at the cost of his life.  The film is an absolutely riveting character study of both Nicholson and Saito, stunningly portrayed by  Sessue Hayakawa, a Japanese immigrant to the United States, who fought with the French Resistance during World War II, helping downed Allied fliers.

The Guinness character is an odd one to engage in the type of thoughts quoted in Griffey’s post.  He has obviously made a great deal of difference to his men and is a hero to them.  He makes them feel a part of an on-going military unit rather than simply a bunch of prisoners, and that was often key to survival in Japanese captivity.  Those who believed that they were part of a larger group often survived, while those who adopted an every man for himself attitude often perished.  Of course in the film Nicholson also greatly errs in helping the Japanese build a militarily vital bridge.  Making a difference doesn’t simply mean making a positive difference.

I have often thought that each person is the worst judge of his or her life.  In time, leave that to others to assess, and in eternity leave that to God, whose assessment is, after all, the only one that really counts.  For us, it is simply our duty to do the best we can each day of our life, and to do so in such a manner that if we are called to God today, we have no reason to be ashamed of the role in the great drama of life that we played today.






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  1. Happy 5 oh Dave.

    I enjoy your thoughts… via the TAC introductions and blog shares.
    Have a great celebration.

  2. We are given a part in life and try to play it as best we can. And the only audience that matters in God Himself.

  3. Michael Dowd… along with your words of wisdom I will add this; “One of God’s gifts to us is life on earth. What we do with our life while on earth is our gift to him.” Unknown author.

    It took me over forty years to understand and carry out this truth. For forty years it was all about my wishes and gratifications. Life truly begin’s when our striving to help the forgotten and forsaken takes over, and loss of our identity becomes a blessing because a deeper understanding of God’s identity within us brings about a new creation, a new man.



    Worth the effort?

    Absolutely Yes!

  4. Loved the Saito line “Be happy in your work.” Can only hope that those in the Church who fail to see what is going on finally get that wide-eyed Alec Guiness look of realization of the truth when he looks at the Bridge, at Wm Holden, and then at the line to the explosives, hears the train with Japanese VIPs approaching – and then does the right thing and blows up bridge and train. For the Church today, Sic Semper Hereticae. Guy McClung, San Antonio TX

  5. Phillip. Good words. Yes, we wish to become the will of God so that I live not now but Christ lives within me. So what do we do? Get the hell out of yourself so God can come in.

  6. It is usually not permitted for us to know our impact on this world while we are here. We are not permitted to know the impact that our children, or their children, will have either… not in this life.
    Today has two special things about it. Today is St. Nicholas Day, enemy of heretics and benefactor of many. Other than that, my youngest is five today.
    Five years ago this morning, the missus was wailing in labor pain and marinading pork chops. I woke up to hear Toby Keith singing Red Solo Cup on the radio. Of course, Mrs. Penguins Fan never bothered to pack a suitcase. Shortly thereafter, the then three year old woke up. At 7 AM the three of us left for Downtown Pittsburgh, in a rainy rush hour. The trip took an hour for 14 miles and I was cut off by a jagoff riding a bike.. in Pittsburgh… in December.
    I pulled into the emergency room driveway and Mrs. Penguins Fan half staggered out of the car and thereby the ER doors even before I stopped. We were grateful that she did not go into labor on the Fort Pitt Bridge. Mr. Micro Bladder had to use the restroom so I asked if I could leave the car in a no parking zone so he could answer the call of nature.
    I took Mr. Micro Bladder to the cafeteria for breakfast, got him eggs, toast and chocolate milk.. and he just drank the milk.
    We visited Mrs. Penguins Fan, by now in bed in her hospital room, and I took Mr. Micro Bladder to my cousin’s home for the day. I returned to the hospital, was able to go to 12 noon Mass…. but the little guy was not waiting any longer. At 12:34, Charles Anthony Washinski entered the world. His hair looked like a professional stylist had done it. In less than 30 seconds, he screamed and took a dump. All was well.
    After Big Chuck was wheeled away for those mandatory state tests for hearing, etc. Mrs. Penguins Fan noted that she was hungry. Fortunately, the eggs and toast Mr. Micro Bladder did not want were available for Mommy to scarf down, which she did in record time.
    Fortune favors the prepared.
    Happy St. Nicholas Day, everyone!
    Joe Washinski “Penguins Fan”

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