Tuesday, July 1, 2014

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

“No man is an Island, entire of itself,” John Donne wrote. It’s true. There is not a single person whose life does not touch another’s life. Family, friends, neighbors, strangers in grocery stores – we all enter into and exit out of the lives of numerous people on a daily basis.

Perhaps we think our daily interactions have little impact on other people’s lives, but I’ve not found that to be entirely true in my life.

A receptionist’s sincere greeting can set my mood for an entire doctor’s appointment. A friend’s compliment can boost my self-esteem. A smile from the person in front of me at the check-out will bring one to my face in kind. A grin from a toddler in a shopping cart as his mother and I pass in the aisles of a store can lighten my mood.

Seconds only of interaction, but it makes a difference in my life at that time.

How many times has the opposite been true, though? Someone’s bad day and surly response can cause an irritated reaction. A frown or glare from a stranger who may not even know he’s giving me the evil eye can make me uneasy. A couple arguing in my presence will upset me...even if it has nothing to do with me at all.

All of our actions make a difference to someone.

Because my mouth has a natural downward turn, when my face is most relaxed, I can appear to be frowning...or even angry. When I go out in public, I try my best to keep a pleasant look on my face, and I make a concerted effort to smile at everyone who makes eye contact with me. Why not? It costs me nothing and even if I don’t gain a smile in return, I’m still better off for having lifted the corners of my mouth.

I also try to watch my tone of voice. A quick response, off the cuff, can sound snippy to others and many is the time people have thought I’ve been upset when I was just giving a cursory answer. I don’t always succeed, but I try to do better.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference” also applies to us individually.

My daily decisions to eat right (or not) impacts my weight, my sleep, my sense of well-being. My decision to go to bed on time impacts whether or not I feel rested and at my best the next day.

My decisions to spend time with my family, my boyfriend and friends impacts my sense of community and connectedness; to go to work and do my best impacts my sense of purpose and meaning.

We all have a choice in every situation as to how we will present ourselves and how we act toward others and ourselves.

Choose wisely. Do and be the best for yourself and others. It will always make a difference.

*William James

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