What you do matters. You may have a profound impact on a stranger by sharing a smile or word of encouragement.
Courtesy of Netflix, my wife Anita and I had the pleasure of re-watching an old classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. The Harper Lee best seller was destined to become a staple of American literature, read by millions of high school students. A few years ago, we attended our son’s graduation from Notre Dame when Harper Lee, the commencement speaker, was surprised and honored by every graduate when each held up a copy of her novel as she was introduced. It was a stunning, yet deserved, tribute to her literary achievement. As I sat in the auditorium, looking at Lee’s beaming face while she gazed out at the sea of book covers flashing below her, I must confess to both admiration and a little envy. “How great it must feel to have written something so wonderful, so moving, and so instructive to everyone who has read it,” I mused.
After our viewing of the film was over, a different thought occurred. While it is unlikely that the vast majority of us will ever have the opportunity (or talent) to touch millions as Harper Lee has, all of us have the chance to make a similar impact, albeit on a smaller number of beneficiaries. A school teacher influences thousands of lives in a career. A man who drives a tractor during the day but coaches a Little League team after work, can befriend a boy from a single parent home. And a woman who owns a store can take a chance on a young man in early recovery from a drug habit by giving him a job. These are all miniature versions of Harper Lee. They are making a difference for another person, or a handful of them, with their simple, unnoticed and unlauded acts of kindness and support. The impact we have on those who cross our life paths is no less significant and may echo through the centuries in ways we can never fully comprehend or imagine.
The only difference between any of us and Harper Lee is a matter of volume.
Remember what we do today can have a positive impact on the lives of others we might know nothing about. Trust that kindness could reverberate through the centuries.