I like the idea of changing the world. But how?
Let me answer that by sharing a story from my childhood.
Growing up in a suburb of Chicago means we weren’t exactly an outdoorsy family. But my dad, after listening to his friend Wes talk about the thrill of camping, borrowed a camper and held the family hostage for a week up north to experience the “great outdoors.” Or, as I like to call it, “The Journey of a Billion Bug Bites.”
The one consolation on this trip was that my favorite cousin Debi came along. Debi’s an absolute sweetheart, and she has the best laugh in the world. It’s sort of a cackle, and I mean that in the very best way. So enchanting is her laughter, that I found myself doing all sorts of weird things so I could have a chance to make her erupt. As a bonus, since she didn’t have any brothers, she viewed my behavior as actually funny instead of just annoying!
At dinner one night, my family sat eating hotdogs while the mosquitoes ate us. Halfway done with my third hotdog, I was stuffed. Staring at the stump that remained in my hand, I pondered what I could do with it that might provide me with some entertainment. That’s when I noticed that Debi was turned away talking with my sister. So I made my move: I stealthily dropped my half-eaten hotdog on her plate. Then I waited.
In my family, these types of tricks were common, so common in fact that even though everyone in my immediate family noticed what I’d done, they didn’t give it a second thought.
Debi, done with her conversation, looked down at her plate and saw my hotdog sitting on what had been her empty plate. She got a slightly perplexed look on her face. Then she shrugged, picked it up, and finished my hotdog for me.
Everyone at the table exploded with laughter.
When we explained to her the silly prank she’d been part of, she didn’t get mad at all. In fact, she laughed, too, which, of course, was my reward. Then she said, “I was sure that I had finished everything on plate!”
So how do you change the world, one person at a time? You tell the people in your world how they changed your world.
So let me start.
Debi, I’ve never told you this, but you were involved in some of my happiest, most vivid childhood memories. I know that I was a bratty, annoying little kid. And now, well, I’m a bratty, annoying BIG kid. But when I think of you sitting with my family some 40 years ago in the middle of nowhere, eating my hotdog, and being such a good sport about it, I have to tell you that I laugh more than a grown man should. Your kindness, class, sense of humor, and infectious laughter is something that I’ve always appreciated, coveted, and cherished. Even well into adulthood, I still look for opportunities to hear you laugh, because your laughter is the greatest gift that you can give me.
And I want you to know that at random, dark times in my life, I’ve thought of what I secretly call The Hotdog Episode, and my burdens seem lighter. And I want you to know that what brings me joy about that story is not that I tricked you, my innocent, gullible cousin, into finishing my half-eaten hotdog. What brings me joy is the perfect memory of the gift of laughter that you shared with me many times that day and throughout the years. In that way, Debi, you’ve changed my world for the better. Thank you.
Now it’s your turn. Will you pick up the challenge?
Who has touched your life and changed your world?
Here’s my challenge–Today will you reach out to just one person who’s made a different in your life, and tell him?
Imagine what this world would look like if each day you took a few minutes to thank one person for how they’ve made an impact in your world. And then imagine if each person you told in turn did the same. And then what if those people followed suit, and so on? How long would it take for every person in the world to be embraced and recognized for the good, kind things they do? How long would it take before each person started focusing on the good, positive, wonderful traits of others instead of the sins and shortcomings we too often allow hold of our attention?
Maya Angelou famously said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If someone has been part of your story, helping you become a happier, better person, will you take 5 minutes today to let that person know?
I don’t have scientific evidence that this would, indeed, change the world. But I can promise you that if you pick up this challenge it will change your world.