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September 2, 2013

Lisa Madras: You might not remember, but you HAVE made a difference

NEW CASTLE — How would the world be different if you were never born?

The first time I read this question, it made me sort of sad. I haven't made any kind of impact on the world at all. How did I, who had such grandiose plans for my life, manage to get this far without accomplishing a single significant thing?

I suppose that without me around, the world's chocolate chip cookie supply would have risen to disastrous levels, but other than that, I don't have a whole lot to brag about. I'm doing a job that anyone with the proper training could do, I'm using up the earth's resources at the same rate as everyone else, and I have no unique talents or abilities to set me apart as anything special.

But then I started thinking back as far as I could, trying to come up with just one thing to justify me taking up space on this wondrous planet we call home.

I remembered the time at the public swimming pool in fifth grade when a scrawny little girl from the neighborhood was being bullied by a much older and larger girl, and I stopped that bully in her tracks. I bet that little girl, if only for one afternoon, was glad I'd been born.

I remember befriending the boy in elementary school who wore worn clothing and smelled like he hadn't bathed in a very long time. He moved away the next year, but I bet he was happy to have me around for a while.

I remember the boy I tutored in high school, and the cousin I saved from drowning, and the lady in front of me at the grocery store who was a couple bucks short.  

My best friend wouldn't have her best friend. My mother wouldn't have her daughter. A million hugs would not have been given, and a thousand heads would not have been thrown back in laughter. Dozens of drivers on the highway wouldn't have been given that break to merge into traffic, and two fluffy kitties wouldn't have my feet to keep them warm at night.

Turns out that the world, minus me, wouldn't be changed in any one great way. But it would be changed in millions of little ways. And who's to say that a dollar is worth more than a hundred pennies?

In my trek down memory lane, I also remembered the really popular guy from junior high who told me how nice I looked the first day I came to school with my new glasses. I remembered the two teachers, one a grammar teacher and the other a creative writing teacher, who drove me insane drilling proper writing skills into my thick head. I remembered the guy from the student union during my first week of college who ran outside to pick me a dragon lily after I told him that no one had ever given me flowers.

I know how different my world would be without these and so many other people.

I think we all question our self-worth and place in the world from time to time. It's easy to measure yourself against the headline makers of the world and determine that you've come up short. But if you ever, heaven forbid, think that the world would be an OK place without you, please know that you're very, very wrong.

The things you do every single day impact everyone around you, whether you know it or not. You could be a moment of goodness and light to people you might not even remember coming across.  

Most lives are not defined by great achievements. They're made up all the little ones.

The ones you often do without even realizing it.


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