I attended a shiur yesterday morning (practically an open miracle), and a mention of the influence we can have on other people’s lives piqued my interest as a potential topic to post.
Basically, we may not think that we’re influential (Who? Little old me?), but every time we interact with someone, even the cashier at the supermarket, our actions are having an effect. Even something as simple as a smile can make a big difference. A 2008 study by researchers at Harvard found that when a person becomes happy, a friend living close by has a 25 percent higher chance of becoming happy themselves. A spouse experiences an 8 percent increased chance and for next-door neighbors, it’s 34 percent.
Sometimes it’s something we say, even if it doesn’t seem important. A story I heard once on this topic goes as follows:
A businessman, in a hurry to catch a subway train, passes a homeless man who is selling pencils for a quarter. The businessman doesn’t realize the homeless man is selling a product, but thinks he is simply collected charity money, so tosses him a quarter as he hurries by. The homeless man flags the businessman down and gives him his pencil. The businessman says,
“Oh, I didn’t realize you were a merchant,” and rushes to his train.
A few years later, the businessman stops by a newspaper kiosk on his way to catch a train, and the vendor says to him,
“You probably don’t recognize me, but you changed my life. Years ago, I was down and out, and I sold you a pencil. When I gave it to you, you told me that you didn’t realize I was a merchant. I had never thought of myself in such terms, and it gave me such self-confidence that I was able to save up enough money to buy this newspaper stand. I now own seven stands in the city. Thank you.”
Many times we won’t see the effects of our actions, but in some cases we can, like with our children. Our children are clearly affected by our choices and behaviors, and they will repeat what they learn to their children, and them to theirs. My husband and I were discussing how our toddler’s view and understanding of the world comes primarily through watching us.
It’s kind of intimidating, frankly.
But that’s okay, because it’s a tremendous opportunity to make an impact in the world.
Choose to do good. Make a positive difference in someone’s life today.