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The Difference Love Can Make

This is the true story of two ladies who had been friends for years. They had known each other since high school. Let’s call them Neva and Joyce (because those are their actual names).

Neva and Joyce both got married shortly after high school. They both had difficult marriages. They each had two children, all four of whom got married and moved away and rarely visited. Both Neva and Joyce’s husbands passed away, so both ladies lived alone for many years. Neither had much money—they lived on social security pensions, which wasn’t much.


Neva got up every morning and walked through her neighborhood. She smiled and waved at everyone. She missed her family. She wished her daughters lived close enough that she could watch her grandchildren grow up. Neva knew that was simply not her reality, and wishing it wouldn’t make it so. So she decided to enjoy her life as it was. She refused to waste a single minute thinking about what she didn't have or how things might have been different. Neva was determined the make the most of every day, and she did!

Neva went to church every Sunday and went to lunch afterwards with her friends. She visited friends and neighbors and baked and delivered cookies to celebrate birthdays. She prepared and delivered dinner for those who were ill. She visited people in the hospital. She played cards with friends every Friday night. But the thing she enjoyed most was spending time with the little girl next door. She thought, “if I can’t have my grandchildren near me, I’ll treat the child who is near me as if she were my grandchild!

Neva just beamed when she talked about that little girl. She loved playing with her. She would plan adventures and prepare for activities in anticipation of the time she would get to spend with her. Neva taught the little girl how to make cookies. She took her for walks and taught her the names of various plants and flowers. Occasionally they would walk all the way to the deli for a special treat of an ice cream bar. In the summer, Neva and the little girl would walk to the community pool where Neva taught her to swim.

The little girl’s mother was a single mom who worked long hours for very little pay. She was grateful to Neva for taking good care of her little girl. She didn’t have any family, and if she didn’t have Neva, she would have had to leave her little girl alone while she worked. She was grateful that Neva didn’t judge her for being a single mom or for having tattoos or for her apartment being a mess. She could tell that Neva really cared about her and her child.

The little girl loved Neva. She couldn’t wait to go see Neva every day. She confided in Neva that her mom was tired and mad all the time. She knew that her mom loved her, but she told Neva that she didn’t think her mom liked her very much. Neva gave her a big hug and told her that her mother adored her and that she wasn’t mad at her at all. She told her that one day when she’s a grown up and has to work to earn money to pay the bills, she might get tired and maybe a little grouchy too, and then she’ll understand her mom a little bit better.


Joyce didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. She didn’t take walks. She didn’t go to church. She didn’t go to lunch with friends. She didn’t have any friends left, except for Neva, and Neva didn’t come around very often.

Joyce didn’t bake cookies to celebrate birthdays or make casseroles for neighbors who were ill. She didn’t have money for that. She barely got by. Joyce wished that someone would bring her casseroles and cookies. No one ever did—no one did anything for her. No one called or came around to check on her to make sure she was alright.

Joyce spent most of her social security check on cigarettes and brandy. She said the brandy helped numb the toothaches that she constantly suffered. Joyce had never taken care of her teeth. She didn’t own a toothbrush, and it was too late to do anything about that. Her teeth were literally rotten. She said that’s why she never smiled.

Joyce bought marijuana from the drug dealer next door to help her relax. She was anxious and fearful most of the time. She didn’t have much money left for food, electricity or fuel for the car. Without food in the house and unable to start the car to leave even if she’d had someplace to go, she often sat in the dark with the only light being the red hot glow on the end of her cigarette.

Joyce cried a lot. She cried every day. She wished she had married that other boy who had showed an interest in her in high school. She berated herself for falling for the tall, dark, handsome lifeguard she met at Santa Monica beach. It was exciting because he knew all the famous people in Hollywood. He'd grown up with them. He was such a good dancer, and he was so much fun when they were dating. But after they got married, it was a whole different story. He couldn’t keep a job. They never had any money. He was angry all the time that the friends he grew up with in Hollywood had “made it” and he hadn’t. He never got chosen for parts—even the dancing parts. Probably because he was angry all the time. He fell away from his Hollywood friends as they became famous and wealthy while he couldn’t earn enough money to pay rent and put food on the table.

Joyce thought about the many friends she’d had in high school. She had been a popular girl, maybe because she was the only one of her friends who had a car. But the reason didn’t matter—she had been invited to lots of parties and had lots of fun. She wondered where they all were now. She imagined that they had married good guys who loved them, had warm homes in safe neighborhoods, drove nice cars and had wonderful lives. They had everything that she wanted but didn’t have.

Joyce felt sorry for herself, for the awful guy she had married, for the filthy little shack she lived in, for having no money, and no one who cared about her, but mostly because she was stuck raising a little girl. Life was so unfair.

Joyce’s daughter had moved out of state, but not before leaving her little girl with a neighbor. Social services identified Joyce as the next of kin, and brought the child to her. “Just what I need, another mouth to feed.

Joyce didn’t take the little girl on walks, teach her the names of plants and flowers, show her how to bake cookies and casseroles, or any of the other things that Neva did with the little girl in her life. Joyce told her granddaughter to go outside and play in the morning and she let her back in the house when the sun went down. Because there wasn’t much food in the house, the little girl would linger at neighbor’s houses around dinner time hoping they would ask her to stay and have dinner with them before she had to go back to the angry, drunk woman in the dark and dirty little shack.

The difference between Neva and Joyce

Both Neva and Joyce had experienced hard times, but Neva chose to make herself feel better by helping others while Joyce chose to make herself feel better by self-medicating with alcohol and drugs.

Joyce kept to herself. She didn’t want anyone to see how she lived or the old clothes she wore. Neva didn’t have a lot of nice things, but “things” weren’t important to her. For her, the people in her life who accepted her for who she was rather than what she did or didn’t have were most important.

While Joyce pitied herself because no one loved her, Neva lived a life of love with others. As a result, she was greatly loved.

While Neva invested kindness and love in the form of time into the little girl within her influence, Joyce wasn’t able to see beyond herself and her pain to meet even the basic needs of the child in her care.

Neva lived a life of love, and the love she gave to others came back to her. Neva chose to care about others instead of waiting and hoping for someone to care about her. She died surrounded by friends, neighbors, and the young woman she had cared for as a child.

Joyce died alone.

The Moral Of The Story

When your situation is difficult or downright painful, your life will be better if you will turn your attention to caring about others instead of waiting for and hoping that someone will care about you.

When you feel sad or depressed, don’t wait for someone to be kind to you. Instead, find someone to be kind to, even if it’s simply sharing a smile. When you choose to show love to others instead of waiting and hoping for someone to show up and love you, your life will be better because you will be enriched by the healthy relationships that result from your kind, caring actions.

An 85-year long study by Harvard University says it best when it concludes that “positive relationships keep us happier, healthier, and help us live longer.” They go on to give these indicators for healthy relationships:

  1. Safety and security: Who would you call if you woke up scared in the middle of the night? Who would you turn to in a moment of crisis?

  2. Learning and growth: Who encourages you to try new things, to take chances, to pursue your life's goals?

  3. Emotional closeness and confiding: Who knows everything (or most things) about you? Who can you call on when you're feeling low and be honest with about how you're feeling?

  4. Identity affirmation and shared experience: Is there someone in your life who has shared many experiences with you and who helps you strengthen your sense of who you are?

  5. Help (both informational and practical): Who do you turn to if you need some expertise or help solving a practical problem (e.g., planting a tree, fixing your WiFi connection).

  6. Fun and relaxation: Who makes you laugh? Who do you call to see a movie or go on a road trip with who makes you feel connected and at ease?

Don’t worry if you don’t have someone in all of those categories. Our culture, electronics and the pandemic have changed the ways, the frequency and the depth at which many of us interact with others.

The good news is that each of us can begin now to make LOVE a priority. The fastest way to bring love into our lives is to be the one who does these things for others.

Let’s not wait for people to do good things for us. Let’s be the one others can call in a crisis, the one who encourages others to try new things, the one others feel safe to confide in, the one who sees the goodness in others, the one who is willing to try to help with things in our areas of expertise, and the one who makes others laugh. Being this person for others leads to a boomerang result of your love coming back to you.

Here's a handy tool to get you started-- the new book, 30 Days To Love, is a blueprint to help you create a life of love. We each get 1,440 minutes every day. Don’t spend another minute living without love at the center of your life. Get your copy today.

Rhonda Sciortino was the little girl left in the care of Joyce. She's not a big fan of placing children in the care of anyone who happens to share their genes. Rhonda is a big fan of Christian foster parents who show the love of Christ to wounded children, and she's a fan of Safe Families for Children who open their homes to parents and children to help keep fragile families together. Love heals. It's the only thing that really does.


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