The SUM of Our Years, The DIFFERENCE in Our Lives

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Spiritual Reflections by Fr Roderick Salazar SVD (Philippines)

SUM, my old generation learned in basic arithmetic,
is the result of the ADDITION of numbers.
Thus, 2 is the SUM of 1 plus 1.

DIFFERENCE, by contrast, is what remains in
the SUBTRACTION of numbers.
Thus, 1 is the DIFFERENCE of 2 minus 1.

Believe it or not, when my old eyes stirred from
sleep at two-thirty this morning, (not a regular thing)
this was what came to mind.

I smiled as I focused on the matter, asking myself:
if I were to SUM up my nights and my days on
earth, subtracting the time I needed to grow up,
would I find that I made a DIFFERENCE in this
world – to anyone else besides myself?

Try sleeping again after that sobering thought.

So I sat in the dark, praying and hoping that somehow
my life has not been in vain, that to one or two or some,
their lives may have sparked up even for just a bit
for their having met me, that somehow God’s creating
me was not a waste, that I learned and shared the
LOVE-ness of God, or the GOD-ness of Love.

I know I have hurt people, disappointed them, failed them.
I pray that more people saw LIGHT rather than DARK
in me and through me. The results of the additions and
subtractions in my life, the multiplications and divisions,
I leave to God.

Even though there have been times when I was like
some of the Pharisees at the time of Jesus, showing off
the good that they did, the commandments that they
followed – for which Jesus said they already got their
reward – I pray that I be more obedient to what Jesus
said should happen: do the good in a way that only God
our Father knows. Not for praise or reward but simply
because the good and the right have to be done here and now.

I remember the lovely story of a teacher and a CEO.
Seated next to each other at a public dinner, the CEO
wanted to show off his knowledge of education.

He argued, “What’s a kid going to learn from someone
who decided his best option in life was to become a

He reminded the other dinner guests what they say
about teachers: “Those who CAN, do.
Those who CAN’T, teach.”

To emphasize his point, he said to another guest:
“You’re a teacher, Susan.
Be Honest. What do you make?”
(by which he meant the salary Susan was receiving.)

Susan, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness
replied, “ You want to know what I make?”
She paused for a second, then began:

“Well, I make kids work harder than they thought they could.
I make a C+ grade feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their
parents can’t make them sit for five minutes without an
Ipod, or movie rental.

Susan paused again and looked at each and every person at the
table and continued, “You really want to know what I make?”

“I make kids wonder. I make them question.

‘I make then apologize and mean it.”

“I make them have respect and have responsibility for their
actions. I teach them to write, and then I make them write.”
I make them read, read, and read. I make them use their
God-given brain, not just the man-made calculator.

Pausing one last time, Susan continued:
“Then, when people try to judge me by what they make,
with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my
head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant.”

“You want to know what I make?

“What about you, Mr. CEO?”
And Mr. CEO could make no sound.

I pray to God that I may make a difference
in this world and in the life of others.

Some of us have big jobs and big responsibilities
perhaps with big paychecks and many privileges.
Some of us have grown old and have lost not just
our jobs but our ability to do things, our agility too.
We had our spotlight moments, we had popularity
and we had money and fame.

These days, we count the physical pains and the pills
that help us live through our days. We are lonely.
We are sick. We are old. We are tired. I hope, also happy.

But we are alive. We thank God for this. We ask God
to help us live our days, paying attention to Him
present in our lives, in our families, in our homes, in
our neighborhood, in our country, in our world.

Every day to which we waken is a blessing, a chance
to learn a little more of the goodness and love of God.
Where I was active before, maybe I am housebound now.
I must pray. I must give thanks. Get to know God
better, love Him more, serve Him more graciously.
I must prepare to live eternity with Him and in Him.

Thank You. Thank You must be theme of my life,
the heart of my prayer, the music of my dance, though
my dance may now just be in the stillness of my soul.

To all who are part of me, living and dead, and to God I sing:

“What a difference a day makes,
Twenty-four little hours, brought the sun
and the flowers where there used to be rain
my yesterday was blue, dear, today I’m part of you, dear,
My lonely nights are through dear, since you said you were mine.

What a difference. a day makes
There’s a rainbow before me, skies above can’t be stormy
since that moment of bliss, that thrilling kiss
It’s heaven when you find romance on your menu
What a difference a day makes


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