Everyday Meaning

I just moved on Friday so I am in no shape to write a blogpost, hence I’m recycling this one from February 2009. Enjoy!

I am the type of person who wants to do things BIG. I want to make a big splash, a big difference, a big impact, etc. A few years ago, I went to Jamaica because I wanted to do big-time service, but when I was there I learned service is the little things too.

I’m starting to believe I can find meaning and purpose in the small things as well.

Last week I would have told you to make difference, to really change the world, requires a best-selling book or a cure for cancer, something like that. Then I started thinking about it. I started burrowing down into the root cause of “making a difference.” Why do I want to write a book? Why is finding a cure for cancer such a big deal? Then it hit me: Duh, it’s because it affects other people! I started to realize the change, the impact comes from the interaction with people. Finding a cure for cancer is only meaningful if people know about it, if the antidote becomes widespread. Writing a book is only helpful if people actually read it and it touches them.

Everyday meaning

The entire world can be reflected in a moment. This image courtesy of MyEveryDayJourney.net.

As I pondered this, I realized my everyday life has meaning and value beyond the larger things I engage with because of the way I interact with others. Saying please and thank you. Smiling. Acknowledging the homeless woman on the corner. They may seem like small acts, but I’m reminded of a quote by Maya Angelou who said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Asking the bank teller how her day is going may not be earth-shattering, but she will certainly remember if I’m snarly and impatient.

I’m also reminded that society is made up of individuals and at this moment in time, my scope is small. I interact with a few individuals everyday, so that’s where I make a difference — in how I’m treating those around me. I think it’s really easy to become self-centered and forget that other people want us to ask how they’re doing too. Today I was at the grocery store and a worker asked me how I was doing, to which I retorted, “I’m fine thanks. How are you?” She thanked me for asking her! How simple, but also how powerful? How often are we really listening to one another? How often are we showing up for each other? Meaning, service, and an impact comes not just from becoming the president of the United States, but from calling up a friend when they’re going through a rough time, or driving someone to the airport.

I know I want to do big things, but I guess I’m saying little things help too. And I can find meaning in the everyday.

I dream of a world where we understand how we interact with others is where the difference, the change, the meaning comes from. A world where we realize smiling at the hot dog vendor has merit. A world where we pursue our big dreams while at the same time having sweet and smiling behavior on the day to day level. A world where we find meaning in the everyday.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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