Posts Tagged ‘impact’

I believe in paying attention to the small scale.

Mind you, I have nothing against big dreams and lofty goals. You want to revolutionize modern transportation? Please do. You want to become a regular on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera? Fantastic. You want to write the next big novel, or design the next big advance in computing, or find new treatments for cancer? I’ll be cheering you on.

You want to save the world? Well, sometimes aiming high gives you the room you need to accomplish something great.

But whether we have great ambitions or not, who we are, how we behave, what we communicate, and the choices we make on a day-to-day basis can also have real impact.

This has been particularly on my mind as I watch the impact that others have on me and my life. On two separate occasions recently, I’ve been engaged in casual conversation with someone who I don’t know very well, and they’ve said something that changed my outlook and deeply influenced decisions I have since made. I don’t think either one of them was making any particular effort to do so, but both of them said something that changed me and helped me to see more clearly.

Photo by Cristian Bernal

We never know when we might do the same, when we will share a thought or insight or ask a question and change someone’s life forever.

When I was in Toronto, I was talking to a friend of mine who is a police officer, and somehow we got into a conversation about attempted suicides. My friend told me he talked to one guy who jumped off a bridge and survived, who said that while he was on his way to the bridge, if a single person had stopped him and smiled at him and asked how he was doing, he wouldn’t have jumped. A single person. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

And haven’t we all experienced that? The email or phone call at the right time, a trip out for frozen yogurt, an invitation to spend the holidays. The teacher who taught us how to think critically or write the hell out of a thesis statement, or the person who believed in our potential even when we were struggling. The sharp kick to send us back in the right direction, delivered without judgement.

I think that’s one of the reasons I find writing this blog to be so valuable. I never know when something I write here might be exactly the thing one of you needed to read that day. But the possibility that I could help someone with these essays the way certain blog posts have helped me keeps me writing.

This week in the United States we spend time thinking about gratitude. I think of the people who have helped me become who I am today, the people who have given me knowledge, advice, and wisdom, the people who have listened to me and provided moral support, the people who have blown me away with their generosity, and it is easy to feel grateful. It is also easy to see how their actions, often small and seemingly insignificant, have taken on a greater meaning.

The small scale matters, and part of its nature is that we might never know how much it matters. We often don’t find out how our influence ripples outwards, what lives we affect, how those lives touch other lives, and what ends up being different because we exist. We don’t know when we’ll say something that makes all the difference.

Which is why I think it’s important to pay attention. Tomorrow might be the day you accidentally change, or even save, someone’s life without ever knowing it.

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