Everyday I talk to a lot of different people. From my roommates and friends to people I don’t even know by name. We exchange words, make small talk, offer advice, offer criticisms and opinions without a second thought. This is all a very important part of everyday life, but, over the course of a day I find that I can’t remember most of what I’ve said to others. I only remember what was said that was important to me, what is going on in my little world and a lot of times, I forget what is going on in someone else’s.
Several summers ago I was working at an outpatient clinic in my hometown. It was a great job and I loved my coworkers. They were all wonderful to work with and I got to know each of them on a personal level. One of my favorite people there was this nice old Indian lady. I talked with everyday I worked there; she always had a new story for me at lunch and had given wonderful advice upon request.
One day when I came into work I noticed that she was far from her usual happy self. I had never seen her upset before, so during my lunch I asked her what was wrong. Turned out it had to do with her son, who had been a paraplegic for some time. I talked with her about it and frankly after that day I never gave it another thought. Well, at least not for a few days. Several days later when I was talking with her she stopped me mid-sentence and said “You know, I just want to tell you that what you said to me the other day meant a lot to me. It really did.” At this I attempted to retrieve what I had said to her; I couldn’t even remember the details of what she had said was wrong.
Although I played that one off pretty well, I was thunderstruck for the rest of the day by what had happened. Something that I said had truly made a difference in someone’s life and I didn’t even know what I had said. It was one of those little things that wasn’t important in my little world. Just one of those everyday interactions like saying “hi” or making small talk. It could have been anything. After that day, and to this day, I believe that we should always try to think about what is going on in someone else’s little world.
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