Reality Check: Your Unknown Impact

Do you know the impact of your life on others? Some people get direct feedback on their actions. For example, if you are in a workplace, you know what happens if you don’t show up for work. If you perform a service such as raising children or caregiving, you likely get very direct feedback from your “customers.” It may not always be complimentary, but you can be quite sure that your actions have an effect.
But our lives may touch people in ways that would never occur to us. If we are fortunate, we may be granted an opportunity to see that.
In some ways, Julie’s mom was a woman after my own heart—she kept journals. She treasured the ordinary events of each day—weather, activities, meals, celebrations. Those journal entries were reminders of the activities that made her life so satisfying.
Bringing joy to the people around her, Julie’s mom never seemed discouraged. Even when Julie was diagnosed with a serious disease, mom seemed unfazed. There were tears, of course, but also laughter, hope, and always food.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, Julie’s mom was gone.
It was appropriate that Julie be the one to take care of mom’s journals. She was torn—should she even read them? They were mom’s private writings; never intended to be read by anyone else, not even Julie. Yet, it seemed wrong to discard them without taking a look.
So she started reading. And there, woven among those stories of everyday life that Julie had expected to find, she found the unexpected—a chronicle of Julie’s illness. Her mom had recorded the many moments of hope and promise: how she cherished each visit, phone call, shared meal. How her spirits lifted with every good report, every hopeful development.
And there were the other, bleaker moments; those times when only her reliance on faith and the relationships that she had nourished sustained her. Those days when it took every ounce of her determination to simply show up, keep to her purpose, smile, encourage, and do her absolute best.
How could this be? Although Julie’s illness was certainly no secret, Mom hadn’t spoken much about it. There were things to be done, life to be lived, people to be helped.
But it was all there in her mother’s voice, both the heart-warming and the heart-wrenching. Every day Julie was at the top of her mind—her courage, her determination, her love. Every day there was something that made that day special among all others.
I am grateful to “Julie” for her permission to tell you this story. As always, when I tell a story that is connected to real events, I change details. In Julie’s case, this was essentially a story of family relationships, and that may resonate for you. But it could also apply to friends, co-workers, community, even casual acquaintances.
We seldom know how we affect other people. We may not know our influence. A quick conversation, a small gesture—we may never know its effect. We don’t know when an offhand remark encouraged someone to keep going when they felt they were at the bitter end of their rope.
What we do matters. Knowing this brings both responsibility and satisfaction to our lives. I hope that you choose to find it satisfying.

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