Two parents were telling me about something that happened the evening before in their home. Their eight-year-old son asked the mother to help him with a mathematical problem. Although she made three attempts, the child still did not understand. So the father tried to explain it from a different angle and the child finally "got it." At this point, the discouraged mother suggested to her son, "Next time go to your father first — you'll get it straight away."

I told them the story of Johnny's three rolls. Johnny was hungry, so he ate a roll. He ate a second roll, and then a third, but he was still hungry. So he ate a bagel. Finally sated, he said to himself: "Stupid me! Next time I'll eat the bagel right away!"

When I talk to people about the importance of reading inspirational books and listening to motivational talks on a regular basis, I sometimes get the response, "I read so many books and I have listened to so many inspiring talks but nothing has changed. So why should I continue doing things that don't work?"

On the other hand, I often hear from readers of my column, "What you wrote made a profound impact on my life. Finally it all made sense to me. I have now stopped being so critical of my children and I spend more quality time with my family." To which I reply, "The material which I write about is not rocket science. It is simply common sense, things which you've probably heard many times before. The reason it has made an impact on you now is that it has come after all the previous times and because now is the time that you are ready to accept it."

The same is true in raising and educating our children. Don't be discouraged when you don't see results. Don't ever think that you are "wasting your time." Perhaps you may need to try a different approach (like the father's different "take" on the math problem that helped the child to finally understand), but every positive talk or action you undertake will have an impact.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory used to say: There are many stages in farming the land: you have to plow and fertilize, sow and water and weed, and harvest — all at the right time. Not all soils and all plants produce the same results and at the same pace, but it is by constantly working on it that real progress can be made.

We can never know for sure which stage our child has reached at any given point in his or her life. One child may be at the early stages of plowing, while another child may be further along in his or her growth and at the stage were the final impact will occur. Thus, we never know what effect our encouraging words may have or what difference they may make, because we don't know what stage the child has reached.

Of course, all this applies not only to parenting but to all forms of education — our efforts to have a positive impact on another person, whether it's a student, a spouse or friend, or our community as a whole.

One thing is for sure: words that come from the heart will reach the heart. Sooner or later an impact will be made and we would have had the merit to have played a part in improving the quality of someone else's life.

Take action that will make a difference. Perhaps there are people in your life regarding whom you have given up trying to make a difference. Try again, this time without expecting instant results. You may be his first or second roll, and there will be someone else who will give him his bagel. You may be planting a seed, and many years later she'll get the watering and weeding she needs. But your positive influence is an essential step in achieving the ultimate results.