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What a Difference a Day Makes
Essay by: Cameron Smedley
“What a difference a day makes.” My grandmother used to say that. It was her almost daily response to the changing condition of her battle with cancer. It would be a battle she’d eventually lose, but her words have stuck with me. That simple truth continues to inspire me, because she lived it out. I can still imagine her going to sleep at night, asking God for healing, and waking the next morning to face the difficult news of her prognosis. Even as her cancer progressed, she held onto hope. One day could make the difference. I’ve seen this be true in my own life, over and over again.
There was a day before I became a father, and then the day I held my own child in my arms. There aren’t enough words and emotions to describe the difference that day made. I was one way the day before, and then there was a great day of transition. My title changed from son to father, from child to parent. As my son loves to say, that day “had me acting different.” If you knew me before I was a father, you’d see the difference a day can make. I haven’t been a perfect father, but it’s absolutely changed me.
Then there’s the difference my wedding day made. The transformation from boyfriend to husband made me realize the selfishness I still hold on to. But it’s also given me a magnifying glass to spot selflessness in my wife. There are moments that I regularly take for granted, as she shows love and concern for me, by building us over herself. I want to do the same. It’s a commitment I choose to make every day. When I fail the day before, the rising of the sun reminds me: today can be different.
We all know a day can shift in a moment. I am one of those people who, when tired enough, can fall asleep while driving. In college, as a newly married father of an almost two-year-old, I had a job that worked through the night. It was a chilly, early spring morning, and it marked the end of my day. I hopped into my wife’s car and immediately rolled down the windows—I needed the cool breeze to keep me awake for the 7-minute drive home. For me, one yawn turns into two, and then I can be asleep. With just one more street to go before arriving at our apartment, my head dropped. It couldn’t have lasted longer than a few seconds, but it was enough. A jarring, overwhelming sound woke me. While asleep, I drove the car into a raised curb. The momentum of the car hitting the curb made the passenger side wheels spin in the air while the drivers side wheels held onto the pavement. I got my bearings, lifting my head to assess the damage, just praying no one was hurt or killed. All clear on that lonely morning. I’d had a one-car wreck, and the worst damage was the single hubcap I saw rolling away from me in the rearview mirror. You might call it fate, chance, or good luck. I say there is a God who looks out for fools (me) and babies (the innocent). This is just one thing in a long list of moments that could have ended much worse. For me now, thinking back on it brings gratitude. That day, and many others, could have ended much differently.
As a young man, I started an arrogant journey of seeking wisdom. I was motivated by not wanting to be embarrassed by things I did not know or understand. I would work hard in school, but still found it difficult most days. I picked up the habit of reading, however. I devoured books, and still do to this day. For a long time, it made me feel like I was smart and could share stories and knowledge. Strangely enough, this quest for wisdom never shook the feeling that I wasn’t smart enough to be in the company I was in. I still doubted myself, because the more I learned, the more I realized I still didn’t know. There will always be someone smarter, faster, stronger, funnier, more well spoken. The lesson learned over many days, one that has made the difference for me, is that comparison is always a losing battle. My efforts and growth should be compared to yesterday. Today, I want to focus on being better than I was the day before, not in measuring myself against someone else. I want to use my days well, to make them count.
I write all this while reflecting on the unexpected passing of a childhood friend. The day before, I assumed I would have another chance to talk with them again. I missed many days of not catching up, not making the phone call, not putting in an effort to see them, because I believed I had more time. The news of their passing is permanent. We won’t speak again. At his home-going service the pastor said, “You don’t have time to not make time for others.” This is the truth of the moments that add up to our days. That’s the difference a day can make.
No one makes it alone. Anything that I do well, any win I may have gotten, has never been accomplished on my own. Of course, there are moments when I must act alone, but I recognize that if I have success in anything, it’s due to the influence of people who have shaped my life. People, moments, and life have made—not the other way around.
The wisdom of my grandmother still grounds me. It pushes me to truly cherish today. To love the people in my midst. To make myself better than I was yesterday. To not waste a single moment or a single day, because they can truly make all the difference—in my life, and the lives of those I love.
Cameron Smedley lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his wife Jasmine and three children. He enjoys conversations about religion, politics, race, and democracy. He has a passion for social justice. Cameron also writes an online blog and hosts an online bible study called Coffee with Cam. You can always ask Cameron what book he currently is reading, as he loves to read and has a goal of reading one book a week.