Small Difference Pearls

Poet Marge Piercy captures the essence of worthwhile activities in To Be of Use: “…Hopi vases that held corn, / are put in museums / but you know they were made to be used. / The pitcher cries for water to carry / and a person for work that is real.” People thrive best when they feel useful, making small differences somewhere.

Today is the anniversary of Lois Whitacre Clark’s death. At age 99 ½ my lovely mother no longer felt useful, although she valiantly tried to leave her bed. When the pandemic kept her housebound for two years, she deteriorated both physically and cognitively. One could argue that her health decline was inevitable at her high-flyer age, but the shut-down contributed to Mom’s growing angst. Never one to swear, Mom called it the “pan-damn-ic.”

I asked Mom for the meaning of her symbol for life — a butterfly. She told me she needed time to reflect. She replied in an email:

“BUTTERFLY MEANING, you ask? Some words that come: unexpected; momentary brush with beauty; desire to see where it will light again; heart-warming; shear fragile strength; unbelievable endurance ability; capable; bonding influence; admiration; affection; attraction; attention; amaaaazing [yes, multiple a’s]; gossamer-winged; flitting; mesmerizing, fleeting, momentous, haunting, recalling…that’s all I have to say about THAT! NO ‘BOX OF CHO-CO-LATES’ right now!”  Sweet dreams, Mom

Mom actually described herself. She was a bonding-influence and heart-warming gal who possessed unbelievable endurance ability. In her vital days of working at Head Start (until age 76) and lifetime of volunteering in numerous community groups, Mom bonded with her whole community. Once she was awarded keys to her city, South Bend, Indiana; another year she was inducted into South Bend’s Community Hall of Fame. You can find her picture online – the gal wearing a butterfly pin.

Butterflies are amazing! Some are known to fly as high as 19, 685 feet. One group of high-flyer butterflies was noticed by fighter pilots! Mom was a high-flyer not only in age, but also in her actions to promote peace. Her hand-made display posters and peace signs were well used; her work was real, standing with beloved Michiana Peace & Justice Coalition friends for years in downtown South Bend every Monday evening during rush hour. One sign read, “Taxes for Schools, Not War.” Mom called these peaceful vigils “Moral Mondays.”

I was asked if I am “channeling” Mom in writing Pearls of Peace blogposts. My answer was, “Not really,” but when you consider that I somehow chose Monday as the day of the week to send weekly reflections into technology’s amazing “cloud,” it does seem Mom-like. I know that she appreciated my first blog in July, 2021.    

Let’s think beyond making small differences on “Moral Mondays.” We could use some peace the rest of the week too.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz

157. What is one heart-warming difference you might make today?

158. What world might we have if we string our small differences together?    

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. Nice memory of your mom, Janis! Thanks, Mary Rose

    Mary Rose Lambke, M.S., R.N. 630 215.6213

    “We are learning that a standard of social ethics is not attained by traveling a sequestered byway, but by mixing on the thronged and common road where all must turn out for one another, and at least see the size of one another’s burdens.” -Jane Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics, 1898



  2. Dear Jan, thank you for sharing this anniversary message about your Mother. The world is certainly a better place because of her. And might I add, that my out look on life is better because of your Pearls of Peace messages. I look forward to summer and early morning Tai Chi.


  3. Thanks for the comments. I always appreciate them, but especially today. Anniversary dates are bittersweet…so many memories flood your mind all at the same time. I am focusing on Mom’s peace vigils today. She was a very goal-directed gal. One time a group of pro-war individuals stood on an opposite corner to have a counter-protest. Mom crossed the street to dialogue with those who had a different point of view. Dialogues have the possibility of making small differences for opposing communicators.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OH yes, you are very much like your mother. Little things that we all can do everyday is to say Thank You to all those people that work to provide for our needs: workers at the grocery store, waiters at the restaurant, everyone who helps to make your life better, easier even if you may directly pay them. Like Lois, we just need to be kind to all those we come in contact with a Lois Great Big Smile!:-)


  5. Thanks for ALL these warm and caring messages! I feel your love!

    Here is another Mom image: picture a snowy-headed woman, 90+ years “young-thinking,” bent over but stalwart in pushing her walker forward — people would rush to open doors for her. Mom would flash her famous Lois Great Big Smile and say with a twinkle in her eye, “There’s always an angel when I need one. You are an angel.” I heard her say this to strangers over and over.


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