First off, I don’t think anyone should necessarily take themselves too seriously and exalt to some level that places them as better than others. We all have our strengths, and we all have our place in this world. However, imagine if you could have the time near the end of your life to do some self-examination and look back. Would you like what you’d see? What might you have changed or altered as you aged and your priorities changed?
Whether you believe in God, or Gods, or no God at all, or some kind of personal accountability, if you were asked, or asked of yourself, did I make a difference and if so how and to what extent, would you be satisfied with your impact or lack thereof? With all the humans on this planet that come and go in a given second, and the others who are alive at any point in time, it is only an extremely small number that are in positions to lead nations, movements, rise to national or international acclaim and whose faces are immediately recognized outside of their given occupation. Can you have an impact if you’re just an ordinary person?
Suppose you were a gifted athlete. You ran a single race at a Olympic event and won. Now what? How does your personal achievement better anyone other than yourself? Some will take that medal and stick it in a glass case and be a local celebrity in their home town. Others might take their rise in recognition and turn it serving humanitarian efforts such as becoming the face of a charity, or serve themselves and become the face for a corporations marketing plan and buy a mansion and fast cars with that sponsorship money. It’s a choice.
We who do the everyday work of Employment Counselling and giving out career/job advice; what would we have to say reflecting back? We certainly didn’t invent anything to improve mankind, nor did we discover any medical breakthrough to extend or improve the quality of people’s’ lives, so would we be happy with the time we had and what we did with it? I’d like to think that instead of imagining all the things we might have done better, we can confidently take heart in the lives we did touch in small ways over time.
There is a scene in the movie Pan where a grown up Wendy Darling is celebrated at a dinner and the audience is largely filled with men whom she touched with kindness (former lost boys) who all stand up one by one and applaud her efforts. Her donations and kindness improved all of their lives. So what if there was some way that near the end of your days, all those people whose lives you improved were revealed to you? A simple act of recognition and expression of appreciation and then you became suddenly aware of how small or large that group of people were? Interesting idea.
You know what? At the end of your time, you don’t always get a chance to evaluate and look back with thoughtful reflection. Even if you did, you aren’t afforded the chance (as far as I know!) to go back and get a do-over, and make things better for others. What you do get however, is time here and now, and little reminders from time-to-time (like this post) that you’ve got the power to bring about change everyday. And this power manifests itself in the decisions we all make given the choices before us. So, do you give somebody in need the bare minimum of help or maybe give them more personal attention? Fix a symptom, or probe a little and get to the root issue causing a symptom?
Maybe it’s because my career has evolved over time, but in any of the jobs and careers I’ve had, I’ve always had the opportunity to serve the needs of others. Be it selling them shoes and clothes, helping them land jobs, advocating for families of children with disabilities, or teaching the value of co-operative rather than only competitive games, I’ve had this great time watching a-ha moments in others, heard words of appreciation and thanks, and know that helping others move forward in a way advances me myself in the process.
I would hope that you too have this experience of looking for ways to impact others for the better, and that you experience the odd word of thanks and appreciation for whatever it is that you do. Know of course that there are many more people out there that probably appreciate your help but won’t or don’t know how to properly communicate it to you. You do good work; sometimes maybe great work. If all you do is stop and listen to someone today whose unloading some baggage on you, you may never know what pent-up frustration could have led to if you hadn’t stopped and just said, “What’s up?” And you might think that you haven’t really done anything at all worthy of note. You may never know.