I was once a firm believer in the quote from Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gunna get.” Now I know this isn’t completely true. I have come to realize that life is about who we, as individuals, choose to be. Yet some people can’t even be considered “individuals.” These followers don’t realize the power they actually have. This power is the force for change; the power that allows society to advance and the power that guides people to have a better understanding of themselves. I believe that through abandoning inhibitions, people have the power to change others.
I first realized the power I had a couple of months ago while visiting my great aunt, Dotty. To be honest, I wasn’t too fond of the idea of trekking into the city to talk to some woman I’ve never met, but my parents convinced me to go. There she was: a small, shriveled, but sharp, 100 year-old woman. The only knowledge she had about me was my love for dance. As we talked, I found that this was a love we shared. My dad, who was sitting beside me, suggested I dance for her. Initially, I tried to make excuses, but then I saw how eager she was to watch me. As I started to move, I watched her facial expression transform. Then she closed her eyes and moved her hands in the air. I felt like she was reliving her past through me. But I realized it wasn’t the past she was living in. She was enjoying this moment, this rarity, and I was responsible for her happiness. Even though it was only for a brief instance, she was changed by my actions. Something I considered so trivial suddenly became so meaningful. I knew I had made a difference in her life.
The power I felt with Aunt Dotty is different than any other type of power; it was not the power a parent has over a child or the power a king has over his people. It was a power so much more rewarding and transcendent. I was able to change her world with no intention of doing so, simply because the laws of human nature state that we are affected by each other. By changing her world, I changed my world. All it took was conquering the perceived discomfiture I thought would result from doing something I love. I learned that in order to progress, we must overcome any insecurities we have. It is in this way that we are able to share ourselves with the rest of the world. My visit with Aunt Dotty brought things into perspective: It is through respect, humility, and authenticity that one person has the power to transform the lives of others.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.