I believe that every human being has the capacity to change the lives of other people on this planet in an earth-shattering way.
The opportunities are all around us.
Consider these statistics of unfortunate occurrences in the United States:
- 25% of adults have a mental illness
- A person dies every 12 seconds
- Around 100 divorces occur every hour
- 2/3 of people experience at least one traumatic event before age 16
- More than 1 in 10 people live in poverty
Almost all of us have been touched by one of these things, or are close to someone who has. Suffering is a difficult part of life, but it also brings with it the potential for personal transformation that would not be possible otherwise.
Moments of suffering and confusion are turning points in our lives. They are infinitesimal hinges of eternity on which we can either succumb to despair or take advantage the adversity itself, using it as a launching pad to propel ourselves to higher peaks of achievement than would have been possible had our lives been easier.
Having the right person in our lives to give the right kind of support at a critical moment can mean the difference between being pulverized and purified by our personal tragedies.
Helping to change the lives of others is the highest form of achievement
As transcendent as that concept is, to me a far more beautiful reality is that we can be the x-factor in other people’s lives that motivate them to swim rather than sink. Conquering our own inner demons is an important first step, but ultimately the greater achievement is to help others overcome their own demons and to change the lives of the people around us.
If you have doubts about that, consider the following contrast: Which is the more significant accomplishment, writing a story that changes your life forever, or writing one that reaches millions of people, revolutionizes thousands of lives, and beneficially influences the very fabric of society?
While our efforts to change the lives of other people for the better may seem modest at first, they are really the beginnings of true achievement.
Each of us can choose merely to realize our own goals, or we can take a step higher and help those within our sphere of influence to do the same. We can’t control when an opportunity to help a fellow human being through a difficult experience will come, but we can determine how we will react when it does. We can’t end all pain and suffering in the world, but we can inspire those around us to become better people because of it.
Charles de Lint expressed:
“I don’t want to live in the kind of world where we don’t look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody who needs a helping hand. I can’t change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but I can do my bit.”
The Transformative Power of Relationships
Building powerful, sincere relationships with people is one of the most important ways that we can put ourselves in a position to have a positive influence.
James Comer once said:
“No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.”
I have seen the reality of that statement through my volunteer work for the Circles Initiative, a program that assists people in getting out of poverty by providing them with individualized support networks and connections to local resources.
One of the former local programs observed that even though the participants of the program face a wide variety of financial barriers, the people who ultimately reach their goals are those whose volunteers show up consistently and build genuine friendships. I believe her. The people who have the benefit of a close-knit support system eventually overcome their challenges and succeed.
The stronger our relationship with someone becomes, the greater the potential impact we can have on them when they go through one of the personal catastrophes described at the beginning. And the more relationships we develop, the more people in our everyday life we will have the power to support and change the lives of.
Each of us has different abilities and talents, but all of us can build relationships. Oftentimes we may not be able to change the thing that causes our loved one pain. But the one thing we can always do is be there for them.
Consistently, unquestioningly, unrelentingly.
We can always simply be there.
And if we sit with them close enough and for long enough, the moment will come when we will be able to touch their lives in a way unique to us that will enable them to have the courage necessary to face their challenges heroically.
Each of us influences, in some small way, every person with whom we interact. And the more that we get to know those people, the more powerful that influence becomes. May each of us choose to make our personal impact as elevating and supportive as possible by nurturing our relationships is my challenge and plea.
Individually we can do great good, but collectively we can make miracles. Personally, we can help change the lives of those around us, but together we can change the world.