What If You’re Someone’s Hero Today?
Let’s say you’re having an average day. Maybe a little below average: nothing’s gone terribly wrong, but on the other hand nothing’s particularly exciting. It’s just plain old Tuesday. Meh.
You don’t feel bad, but you don’t feel great either, and that in itself is kind of dispiriting. It’s simply one of those days, or hours, or moments that we all have, when you’re just plugging along, doing your unspectacular thing, marking time until the Next Big Whatever.
If you were grading today, so far you’d give it a C.
But here’s the thing. That conversation you had with the barista on your way to work this morning, when he mentioned he was applying to grad school and he was nervous about it and you told him to go for it?
That was just the encouragement he needed. His shift is over and he’s home right now, filling out the app.
Or maybe not.
Or the lady you let make a left turn in front of you, even though you had the right of way? The one who didn’t even smile or wave at you as she zoomed past, and then you got stuck at the light? She’d just gotten a call from the nurse at the hospice and was trying to get there in time. Right now she’s thanking you for making it possible for her to say goodbye.
Or, again, maybe not.
My point is, you don’t know the effect you’ve had on other people today. There is a solid chance, however, that it’s much more profound than you imagine.
So far my day has been pretty ho-hum. I work at a middle school, which means drama can erupt at any moment. But not so much today. Although there was that one minor incident at lunch.
I’d just stepped out of the office and found a student slumped against the wall of the breezeway, hugging herself as though she might fly apart. Her face streamed with tears. Being twelve years old is no defense against tragedy. We’ve had students who have lost family members to death or divorce or deportation, or whose lives are otherwise upended by all manner of calamities.
So I took a deep breath to steady myself as I asked her what was the matter. Through her sobs, she haltingly revealed the source of her misery.
She’d gotten a B-minus in science.
Who am I to judge the legitimacy of another’s suffering? According to her, her parents had gotten “really mad” last year when her otherwise perfect grades were besmirched with an A-minus. Her mother seems like an eminently reasonable person to me, so I take that with a grain of salt.
I gently pointed out that a B-minus is a perfectly respectable grade, and that I worry more about the kids who get nothing but A’s and can’t bounce back when they inevitably fall short. I don’t know if I used the term “resilience,” but that was my gist.
Her chest had stopped heaving, but her eyes still brimmed. “But I want to get into Stanford,” she whispered.
I touched her shoulder. “You’re in seventh grade,” I said. “I promise you from the bottom of my heart, it’s too early to worry about that. Stanford doesn’t care. Don’t tell anybody I said that.”
She brightened. When I saw her again minutes later she was talking and laughing with her friends.
Now, I have no idea what she did with that moment in the breezeway. She may have already forgotten all about it. My words may have bounced right off her without the slightest impact.
Or maybe not. Maybe it was just what she needed to hear. Maybe it’s something she’ll draw on in the future when she’s too hard on herself.
My larger point is, we fall into error when we judge our days, just like when we judge ourselves. We don’t have all the information, for one thing, and we regard ourselves and our experiences through distorted lenses.
But what if we allowed for the possibility that, quite without knowing it, we have already done something extraordinary on this very ordinary day, something that had a positive impact on one of our fellow humans?
Makes the day feel brighter, doesn’t it? I find that possibility something to be grateful for.
Cheers to you, hero.
Check out my other posts this month as I explore radical gratitude, in a challenge to find the miraculous hidden in the everyday. If you feel inspired to join me, by all means, write on!