I believe that each one of us can (and often does) make an impact on the lives of others, and therefore the world, through our everyday interactions. I’m not talking about the obvious interactions where we know we make a difference. I’m talking about the often unintentional and even subtle interactions we have with those around us each and every day. Maybe you’ve offered a smile or a kind word to a stranger in an elevator or at a gas station when they needed it most. That may have made a huge difference to that person on that particular day. Maybe you had a conversation with or said something to an acquaintance that had a huge impact on them – and you are likely oblivious that you made such a difference. Now, you may be saying to yourself that you aren’t important enough to make a difference or have a positive influence on others. I call BS on that. You do not have to be in a powerful job or have a lot of money to make an impact on others’ lives – or even the world. Your everyday interactions with those around you can (and likely do) make a difference – regardless of what you do for a living, where you live or how much money you make.
When I was in high school, I had an English teacher that gave a writing assignment I found truly difficult. So I put it off. Now, I was not one of those students who procrastinated (this was totally new to me). I was one of those annoying teacher’s pet types that always turned things in on time (sometimes, even early). As fate would have it, my one-time procrastination was set up perfectly for a life-lesson that I didn’t really appreciate at the time. I got the flu about a week before my paper was due. Not only did I feel truly terrible, but I had to write this paper that I had no idea how to write. So I wrote it at the last-minute while dealing with a high fever and being completely and utterly drugged out of my mind with cold and flu medicine that made my head feel as though it was full of cotton. Needless to say, my work product was complete crap. I turned my paper in on time telling myself that my teacher would give me a “pass” on this one – after all I had been sick, right? Nope. Not only did she not give me a pass on the assignment, she called me out in front of the entire class. I was mortified!
Fast-forward several years and her voice started to come back to me at the most interesting moments. At any time when I am tempted to give up because something is really difficult for me, I can hear her start in “Heather Elaine Jones…” (which is my maiden name, by the way). Those are the words she started with and that is what always rings in my mind. This voice has pushed me when I’ve needed to be pushed – ensuring that I don’t give up, but instead give it my all. This voice even helped me get through my chemotherapy.
My cancer treatment isn’t something that I talk to people about much. Part of it wasn’t that bad, but a portion of my chemotherapy was absolutely miserable. I hated it. It tested me both physically and mentally in ways that I didn’t expect. There were many days during my last 2 months of treatment where I gave myself quite the pep talk just to get out of bed. Then I had to convince myself to take those few steps into the shower, then more convincing to get myself into clothes and yet more convincing NOT get back into bed (sometimes I lost that last one, but at least I was showered and dressed). There were days that I cried for hours because of the pain. Have you watched the movie Alien? I actually had that little monster living inside of me, yet he refused to leave. When I had only 2 treatments left, I came to a moment where I was convinced that I couldn’t do it anymore. I was done. No more treatment for me. But then a funny thing happened. My teacher’s voice came back to me and I knew that I wouldn’t (no, I couldn’t) stop treatment. She pushed me to finish my treatment.
I do not remember the precise words that she said to me. I don’t even remember her name. Regardless, the moment left a lasting impression on me that has helped me throughout my life. She has no idea that this moment made such a lasting impression. But it did. She was just honest with me about the effort I had put forth and that she expected more of me. She came from a place of caring and connected with me. When you think about it, it really is pretty simple.
You too can make a huge difference in others’ lives. Truthfully, you likely already have without ever having known about it. However, I would ask that you do everything you can to ensure that you are making a positive difference. How? Talk to people. Smile. Connect. Your connection with another human being, no matter how brief, can have a huge impact on that person’s life. Focus on connecting and the fact that you want to make a difference. The people that you touch will touch others. There is a ripple effect. It does not matter who you are, what you do for a living, where you live, or how much money you make. That’s all for now. Until next time…