This is not the kind of post where the inevitability of death can be argued. It’s taken as fact here. With that disclaimer, let’s get on.
You will die, without knowing the extent of your impact on the world.
The things you do even once in your lifetime, impact someone in some way. There is no way for you to know how many lives you touched, intentionally or not. Yes, you could list the people you communicate with on purpose, your friends, family, peers, colleagues… but what about the people on the same bus as you? The people living on your street? Those who’ve seen a picture of you, or just passed by on a morning stroll. If you donate money or time to any sort of charity, your contribution could have helped in so many ways.
Take this blog post as an example. I can see my number of views, country analytics, likes and comments… I can’t see everyone who read it over a shoulder or on someone else’s phone, the conversations or thoughts it may have sparked, if anyone actually changed as a result of my words. Even after I die, my posts could be found and read by people in the future. I don’t know how long people will speak of me when I’m gone. Even if you could count the number of lives you have changed while you’re alive, your impact may not stop growing once you pass.
There are so many examples I could make here. Many evangelists won’t know if their efforts actually contributed to anyone’s acceptance of the gospel. If you have children or grandchildren, they could go on to do anything! Chatting with a retiree at the bus stop could be the highlight of their day. It’s impossible to measure or know how much you will change the world simply by living.
That could sound very intimidating to some people – I will always be judged, and I won’t always know what people think of me. But I choose to see it as a positive and motivating reason to live and keep trying to do good. When my life seems insignificant in the grand scheme, I can trust that I do have some leverage in the world. The things I do can change things, change people, change the world. Even if in the moment I can’t see the fruits of my effort, I know that they’re there, or that they will be in the future.
Imagine you’re part of a community of shell collectors. Some shells you give to people in person, and they either keep them or pass them on or throw them away. Some people just happen upon them and pick them up to add to their collection.
Each shell represents an idea, opinion, action or achievement. When you give someone a shell, it’s like you spending time with a person and they observe you. They can take on board your ideas and opinions (keep the shell), share them with others (pass them on) or reject them (throw away the shell). When someone finds a shell on the beach, that’s like someone you don’t necessarily know being influenced by you. Social media means the world’s beaches are littered with these shells for anyone to find. An imperfect metaphor of course, because sharing ideas doesn’t mean they are forcibly removed from your own mind.
Or you could think of yourself as trying to complete the jigsaw that is your identity without a reference picture. You find pieces and try them to see if they fit, borrowing bits from others here and there. Sometimes the weather and situation warps the pieces you have; suddenly they don’t fit together anymore and you are left to fill in the new gaps.
But the metaphor you use isn’t as important as what it represents. Ultimately the message is the same – what you do and say could affect anyone. In our world today, we’re on display more than ever before. Therefore, make sure that what people observe is the real you, because in the future you may not be able to argue if your actions didn’t match what you truly meant or believed. And if you feel invisible, just know that someone has or will notice you, and you are and will be important in ways you don’t even know yet. Keep at it, even if you can’t see how you’re influencing people. Rest assured, you will keep popping up in people’s lives, and making changes in the world. Don’t give up, because your worth is always growing as you connect with more people.