Sometimes you just don’t know. Sometimes we go through life doing our best, working hard to make a difference (not only in our lives but those around us) and we just don’t know if we are. It’s like a bad driver careening out of control down the road unaware of the carnage going on in his rear-view mirror. Eyes focused on the road ahead, but completely oblivious to the damage done. Later, watching the evening news about a car driven by a reckless driver he says “wow, I drove right through there just before all that happened.”
I’m not saying I’m a bad driver. I’m talking about whether saying hello to someone while walking down the sidewalk, letting someone ahead of you in line or just listening to someone go on and on about the turmoil in their life actually makes a difference to them. Once the brief encounter is over and you both go your separate ways, was a difference made? Good? Bad? All I can do is be who I am and if the goal is to make a difference at that moment then I’ll know I did my best. I don’t know the back-story of everyone I come in contact with, but everyone has a story. Who am I to think I can completely understand their lifetime in just a few moments? Hell, I have a hard enough time understanding my own let alone someone else.
But it’s not about understanding where someone comes from or how their life differs from ours. It’s about the effort put forth to make a difference from this moment on. Listen. Smile. Hold out a hand or open a door. Making someone’s whole day might take just a second of your time, so why wouldn’t we do that? Sounds easy, but are we too wrapped up in our own little world to see the world around us? For whatever reason, perfect strangers will tell me just about anything. I’m not sure if I suffer from “Nice Guy Syndrome” or if it’s because I’m willing to engage in conversation. I’ve tried to understand what possesses someone to veer out of the light conversation we were having into a much deeper subject. At this point we might want to have a proper introduction. For reasons unknown to me, they feel it necessary to say what’s on their mind or what’s going on in their life. It must be my great ability to listen, show the proper facial expressions and nod my head. Just as the old saying goes that bees smell fear, I think people can just smell I’m a good listener.
As we move about our daily routines, it’s only a matter of time that something we say or do (intentional or not) will have an impact on someone around us. For those who know us, what we say or do won’t necessarily be a surprise. For everyone else we may never know. I wish it was as simple as watching the evening news to find out if the damage behind me was caused by yours truly. Although, I do check my mirrors regularly.