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  • Writer's pictureM. Winston (Winn) Egan

Just One Person Can Make A Big Difference

Just One Person Can Make A Big Difference

This year, Thanksgiving was different than any other I can remember. Diane, my new bride, and I decided early on to honor local and state leaders' requests to stay home. This we did, celebrating this holiday with only those who are part of our household—just the two of us.

Together, we prepared our Thanksgiving meal. We enjoyed our traditional menu: roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, corn, dressing, homemade rolls, pumpkin-cake roll, and something new for Diane—buttered parsnips. I don't think she actually sampled any of the parsnips. Together, we had a lovely time enjoying our dinner, reflecting on our blessings, and expressing gratitude for our fortunate circumstances and growing relationship.

After our dinner, we made some socially distanced deliveries to several of our children and their families. We delivered one pumpkin-roll cake to Diane's daughter, Stephanie, and her family and half a dozen homemade rolls to my daughter, Amy, and her family. Both deliveries were well received. These deliveries also allowed us to express our love for both families with small gifts of freshly prepared foods.

With the day slowly coming to a close, we decided to view a new Netflick's release: Hillbilly Elegy. Both of us had read the book of the same title. We found its stories compelling and informative in examining and representing the lives of the featured families. Generally, we do not watch R-rated movies. Still, we knew upfront what to expect and how we would make sense of our experience.

The movie provoked powerful feelings in each of us. We were repeatedly and powerfully impacted by the intensity, rawness, and pervasiveness of the dysfunctional and damaging interactions within these families—grandparent to grandparent, daughter to mother, son to mother, grandson to grandparent, as well as brother to sister.

Diane and I could not help but contrast our lives with theirs. In many instances, what we saw was unimaginable and unthinkable. Our hearts almost burst as we vicariously experienced the pain, constant conflict, and trauma within these families. We came away from the feature with a deeper understanding of the severe challenges that many families and children face in dealing with poverty, mental illness, and drug addiction.

At the end of Hillbilly Elegy, JD, the lead character, engages in some self-talk—a voice over while he walks to an interview for a potential summer internship. His self-talk speaks directly to the power of one grandmother who made a gigantic difference in his life.

Twice I've needed to be rescued. The first time it was Mamaw [my grandmother] who saved me. The second is what she taught me, that where we come from is who we are. But we choose every day what we become.

My family is not perfect, but they made me who I am. They gave me the chances they never had.

Yes, Just One Person Can Make A Big Difference! That person could be you! Be responsible. Be responsive. And be courageous. You could make a difference like Mamaw!

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