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An Unknown Impact

I love people watching. I could sit in the middle of an airport, or busy mall and just watch people go about their daily lives while they’re not aware that someone is watching them. Don’t worry, not in a creepy way, I just enjoy watching people as they interact withother people and the world around them. I enjoy thinking about where they’ve come from, where they’re going, and how they got here. If they’re meeting a loved one they’ve known a long time, or possibly going to meet a potential future significant other for the first time. I especially love watching people waiting for someone at the airport. Young kids standing with dad while mom gets off the plane, young people who are waiting for their long time friend to walk through the gate, or —my personal favorite— an older gentleman standing there with a bouquet of flowers waiting for his wife, who’s returning from a trip. That scene will make me tear up every.single.time.

I also love watching people do amazing things when they think no one is paying attention. Whether that be someone tipping the waitress who’s had a rough day an amount beyond normal, someone paying for the coffee of the car behind them, or someone stopping to talk with a homeless person and hearing their story. What I find remarkable about seeing these instances unfold, or hearing people re-tell the story about how it happened to them, is to hear about this lasting impact someone had on them without knowing. What if we lived in a world where you were told all the positive and negative impacts you had on people, even strangers, throughout your life? I imagine it would change the way you spoke with people and reacted in different situations.

Around Christmas this past year, my little sister, Marilla, received a package in the mail at the home we grew up in. Important note: Marilla graduated from high school in 2012, and then went on to college and graduated from there a couple years ago. My whole family had a front row seat to this mysterious package, because we had gathered together for our family Christmas. Marilla vaguely recognized the name of the return addressee, but doubted herself. Something my close friends and family know about me is that I LOVE a good surprise, and this mysterious package was no exception. My patience was running razor thin as she ruminated out loud who the package could be from, so I asked if I could open the package for her to help the process along—sadly she refused my request. She took her (as we call it in Indiana) “ol’ sweet time” opening the card within the package, reading it to herself, and then bringing out the contents of the box: a small blue purse. She looked at the gift and card with a mixture of confusion and surprised joy. I grabbed the card away from her —don’t judge me, I’m her big sister and I’m allowed to snatch things from her— and read it out loud. There were two cards: one from a girl a couple grades below Marilla in high school that she interacted with fairly minimally—we’ll call her Katie—, and a card from Katies mom.

The card from her mom said that they had been doing some spring cleaning and found this gift that  their daughter, Katie, had meant to give Marilla as a high school graduation present. When they found it, the mom remembered Katie talking fondly about Marilla and her warm personality when they were in school together, and knew that she wanted to send the belated gift to her. She ended the note thanking Marilla for her positive impact on her daughter. Katie had also written her own card—part of which was written when she actually purchased the gift 7 years ago, and part from when they found the gift again. She apologized for the delay in the gift, but expressed her desire to still send it all these years later because she wanted Marilla to know what their interactions meant to her. She said that Marilla’s love of laughter and her friendly personality towards everyone had such a positive impact on her, and she’d always looked up to Marilla for that.

As I read the card, Marilla sat in stunned silence for a moment. She finally broke her silence saying, “I don’t understand…I don’t feel like I interacted with her that much.” But that’s the thing. It doesn’t matter how much time you’ve spent with someone, all that matters is what that time meant to them. We all sat around and talked about how amazing this gift was: the gift of being told the impact you had on someone. A gift people so rarely receive in their lifetime.

What I find interesting is that when you attend a funeral, people tell story after story about the impact this person had on their lives. Things that may have seemed small to the deceased, but helped to form the person into the individual they are today. I have one question: WHY do we wait until people are no longer here to tell them the impact they had on us? Why do we withhold that amazing gift from someone??

A few years ago I ran into a girl I used to go to high school with, Bailey. Important note: I graduated high school in 2007—no need to try and do the math to figure out my age, I turned 30 this year. She was 3 years below me, and we were in choir together. She was a fun girl that I enjoyed, but we really didn’t spend much time together because of the age difference, and we didn’t have many other common extracurriculars. When we ran into each other, we caught up, laughing about nostalgic stories and how life had treated since. A group of people joined us, and we all started chatting and getting to know one another. During the conversation, the group asked Bailey and I how we knew each other. I explained that we went to high school together, and she quickly piped in adding, “Yea! Zarah was awesome! She used to pick me up in the mornings to bring me to school for morning practices, and bring me coffee.” I couldn’t even say anything for a moment, because I honestly didn’t remember picking her up in the mornings. It had been so long ago, but it was clearly something she remembered. She spoke about some of the things we would chat about on our drives, and how that had impacted her. This “older” kid was paying attention to her and actually listening to what she had to say. I felt terrible that I didn’t remember it as clearly as she did, but I was so thankful that she told me that. Please know that I’m not telling this story to put a feather in my cap in any way, I’m telling it to show that even a simple car ride and some coffee can make a lasting impact on someone. Something so small to you could mean something huge to someone else. This way of thinking is actually what brought me to FabACab. I saw a group of people all wanting to change the way things were done in the elevator industry, and leave an impact on it for the good. What if every single one of your clients told you what kind of impact you left on their lives? Would you be proud of what they had to say? Or would you feel ashamed? I feel so proud working with a company like ours that consciously strives to make a positive impact, knowing that we may not get it right 100% of the time; but in those situations we will stop, listen, and move forward to make the best of the current situation so we can be even better in the future.

What I hope this blog challenges you to do, is to tell those that have left any positive impact on your life just how they did that before they aren’t here anymore. I also challenge everyone to be more aware of how you treat people, because you never know what people will remember and carry with them for the rest of their lives. A quote I have been, self-admittedly, a bit obsessed with recently is one by Maya Angelou, “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.” I hope you go out and make people feel good. I hope that in a time filled with too much controversy and negativity, we can all make people feel a positive impact from us. Just like how seeing that older couple embrace at the airport made me feel, or watching the face of the waitress get her extra tip on a rough day, or seeing my sisters face light up after reading that touching letter. Make people feel the positive impact they had on your life, because, trust me, it will change the way they interact with people in the future.