A professor was in the habit of giving his students a little gift at the end of the school year – a blue ribbon with the words “Who I Am Makes A Difference®” printed in gold letters on the ribbon.
As she gave each student their ribbon she explained why he had appreciated teaching them, and why his course had been different because that particular student had been present.
One day it occurred to her to see what effect this little custom would have on the community. She gave each student 3 blue ribbons instead of one, and told each of them to give one ribbon to someone they knew who, in their opinion “made a difference.”
She also told them to give the 2 other ribbons to that same person, with instructions to hand them out to others who had made a difference. After that the students were to come back and report what happened.
One student who had a part-time job gave his ribbon to his boss, a grumpy fellow who nevertheless appreciated the honor. “I admire everything you’ve done,” the student said to his boss. “I think you’re a creative genius and a real fair guy. Will you allow me to pin this blue ribbon on your jacket as a sign of my appreciation?” T
he boy’s boss was surprised but also pleased. “Yeah, sure, why not?” he said.
“And will you take these 2 other ribbons,” the student continued, “and give them to someone you think makes a difference, like I did for you? It’s for a project we’re doing at school.”
“All right,” the boss replied.
That night the boss returned home wearing the purple ribbon on his jacket. He greeted his 14 year old son and said, “Something strange happened to me today. One of my employees gave me this ribbon. See what’s written on it? ‘Because you make a difference.’ He gave me another ribbon just like it and told me to give it to someone who’s made a difference for me, someone who is very special and means a lot to me.
“I had a pretty hard day, but on the way home I said to myself, ‘There’s only one person I want to give this ribbon to.’ I know I tell you off a lot because you don’t work hard enough at school, because all you think about is going out and having fun with your friends, because your room’s always a mess… But tonight I want to tell you that you are very very important to me. You and your mother make all the difference in my life, and I’d like you to accept this blue ribbon as a sign of my love. I don’t tell you I love you very often, not nearly enough, I know. But I do love you, and I think you’re a wonderful kid!”
As soon as he stopped talking his son burst into tears. His whole body shook with sobs. His father took him in his arms and held him close, saying, “That’s okay, it’s all right. Did I say something wrong?”
“No Dad.” his son replied, “It’s just that… I decided I was going to kill myself. I was going to do it tomorrow. I had it all planned out. I wanted to kill myself because I was sure you didn’t like me, even though I tried hard to be good. Now that’s all changed…”