Recently, an older lady that I had the pleasure of working with for 7 years passed away. She was a cashier at the IGA for almost 13 years. She was also a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, a softball coach, a bowler, a huge supporter of SJO athletics, and a friend to everyone. The number of people that Nita affected in her life was incredible. One post commemorating her life on Facebook reached over 16,000 people just from the number of shares and comments it received. Many of the customers at the store had wonderful things to say about her and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me that it just won’t be the same without her at register 1. Just about the whole town of St. Joe knew who she was. Hundreds of people shared how much they were going to miss her in Facebook comments. High school students were tweeting how much they would miss her at lunch and how special it made them feel to have her cheering them on at sporting events. The impact that Nita had on the town of St. Joe and beyond was enormously positive and awesome to see.
It got me thinking about life and death and beyond. Nita may be gone, but the impact that she left will live on and it will be what people remember about her. Some of the customers didn’t even know her name, but they remembered her as the nice lady who always had a smile and an extra penny for anyone who needed it. Her kindness, her generosity, and her love for people is what will be remembered about her for years to come.
When we leave this world, it won’t matter how much money we made or where we worked or how big of a house we owned or how many cars we were able to afford. What will live on is our legacy. What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?
There’s a quote by Maya Angelou that goes “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.” People might forget your words, they might forget your actions, but they will remember if you made them smile, if you made them feel loved and accepted, if you made them feel good about themselves, if you helped them in some way. Or they will remember if you made them feel bad about themselves, or if you never had time for their problems, or if you only worried about yourself and your own issues.
Spend some time reflecting on the impact that you want to leave on people. What do you want them to remember about you? How do you want them to feel when they walk away from an interaction with you? Now think.. did your actions today align with those things? Did you leave a positive impact on the world in some way today?
I think about this a lot when I’m at work. It’s easy to go on auto-pilot and go through the same routine small talk – “Hi, how are you today?” etc. But do I really leave people with a positive impression when I do that? Do I make their day better in any way? I try to make an effort to remember a small detail about them that we talked about last time they were in or to pay them an honest compliment to make them smile – even the grumpy customers. I try to remember that I can’t control how they treat me, but I can control how I react. I feel better and I feel like I’ve done more to leave the impact that I want to leave when I try to make their day better in some small way.
In your every day job, whether you are a teacher, a nurse, a CEO, a stay-at-home parent, a cashier, a bartender, a delivery driver, an office worker, a factory worker, etc – what impact do you want to have on your students, patients, employees, customers, or co-workers? How do you want them to remember you?
I believe that we all should try to leave this world a better place than when we entered it. This doesn’t have to be some huge, far-reaching thing. It can be as simple as making a positive impact on one person each day. It can be as simple as offering a smile to the people you pass on the sidewalk or at the grocery store. It can be as simple as offering someone an extra penny when they come up a little bit short.
A lot of people put their heads down and get lost in their own every day lives and issues and forget to look up at the world around them. It’s easy to do this. It’s easy to get discouraged by all the scary news stories and negativity in the world today. But if you focus on the negativity, you will only see the negativity. If you focus on being a source of light and positivity, you will begin to see more positivity in the world around you, and you will lead a happier, more fulfilled life.
I still find myself getting caught up and not focusing on this as much as I should, but at the end of each day I ask myself “What did I do today to make someone’s day better?” and reflect on the impact I left on the world for that day. I think to myself “did my actions today reflect my ultimate goal of leaving the world a better place than when I came into it?”
Maybe this all sounds like sunshine and rainbows coming from someone who hasn’t experienced much of this scary world yet. Maybe it sounds like crap and you don’t care about your legacy and how people remember you. Or maybe this will cause you to reflect on your everyday actions and whether you are leaving a positive impact on the people you encounter each day. I don’t know about you – but for me, spreading happiness to other people makes me happy. That’s the impact I want to leave on the world – I want to be remembered as someone who always tried to make your life better in some small way. I want to help people, I want to spread happiness, and I want to be a source of love – not hate or grouchiness. What impact do you want to leave on the world? Did your actions today reflect that goal?
As always, thanks for reading my thoughts and ramblings. I always appreciate feedback, let me know what you think!