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by Riney Jordan

Just a little can make a big difference


uenos nachos!” I announced confidently as we left a mission in Queretaro, Mexico, late one evening. Our daughter immediately let out a sound remarkably similar to that of a laughing hyena at mealtime. “Dad, you didn’t say, ‘Good night.’ You said, ‘Good nachos!’ I think you mean ‘Buenos noches.’” Oh, what a difference a couple of letters can make. And it’s true of so many other things as well. I remember reading about a new ad campaign for Pepsi that simply said: “Pepsi comes alive!” Sounds great in English, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, when they translated it into the Chinese language, it read: “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” Oops! Not good. There are so many times when just a little something can make a huge difference. Too much salt. It makes a difference. Driving a few miles faster than the speed limit. It can make a difference. Not giving encouragement when someone needs it. It can make a difference. I remember a young man who became a close friend of mine when I was in college. For whatever reason, we all called him “Buzzy.” Here was one of the finest young men you’d ever meet. Friendly. Smart. Fun. Outgoing. It seemed that everyone he met loved being around him. When the Vietnam conflict began, he enlisted. While serving, he was introduced to marijuana. Just a little bit. One thing, of course, led to another. And that “little bit” turned into a lot. As you might guess, a totally different friend returned to the United States after the war. All of his old friends talked about the difference they saw in him. His appearance was so dramatically changed that you wouldn’t have recognized him had you passed him on the street. Gradually, 30

Texas School Business • May 2009

those old friends began to disappear from his life. As a young teacher, I often thought that I should drive the two hours back home and talk to him. He had developed some serious addictions to drugs and needed some serious help. “Oh, he’ll grow out of it in a year or two,” I thought. “I’m busy this weekend. Maybe I’ll call him next week.” A little encouragement might have made a difference. A little support might have made a difference. A little compassion might have made a difference. But a little “whatever” never happened. And one starlit summer evening that old friend put a pistol to his head as he lay under a tree in his parent’s front yard, and that one little bullet made a lot of difference. I’ve thought a great deal about my friend Buzzy over the years. Would he be alive today if more of us had taken the time and effort to try to make a difference? I don’t know the answer to that, but I know now, that when someone appears to be troubled, I make a conscious effort to give them encouragement, hoping it might make a difference. As school administrators, teachers, support staff or parents, we need to take the time to communicate with those around us. We never know when a kind word or a smile or a pat on the back might change the course of things. So right now, as you are reading this, commit to becoming an encourager. Because a little something really can make a big difference. RINEY JORDAN, whose best-selling book, “All the Difference,” is now in its fifth printing, is an international speaker and humorist. He can be reached at or by visiting

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TSB—May 2009  
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