Changing the World
Just Jen in her bridal gown and I, on the dance floor, the evening almost over. We held hands, as I told her how happy I was for her, and how proud I was of her and her accomplishments…a doctorate in neuroscience, researching a cure for Alzheimer's. "You are changing the world!" I said.
She was obviously uncomfortable with the compliment, so she laughed and looked away, saying, “I don’t know about that! But thank you. You! Look at what YOU are doing! YOU are changing the world!”
I thought, she is humble (has never liked praise or attention), and her words were extremely kind. She is lovingly intuitive, as well. While I was complimenting her, she was finding good in me!
She continued, “You are side by side with people who are struggling! I could never do that! Shoulder to shoulder you are right there with them, when they need someone the most! I'm just in a lab somewhere working on mice and rat brains." I was a little uncomfortable and definitely taken aback, I pretended to agree (because I knew she'd be uncomfortable if I tried to protest.) In my mind, what I was doing in my life seemed too small to be significant.
We shared a long and loving embrace, and then parted ways. (I went to the dessert buffet; she returned her attention to her bridesmaids.) With so much else going on: lots of good byes, hugs, good wishes (and a few more desserts for the road), I didn’t think much about it, until I was driving home the next day.
I started to cry. I pulled off the Interstate, onto a side road. This is what was going through my mind: There is so much promise for her and her new husband Tyler ahead!! He is an engineer, working to provide clean water in third-world countries. (He also has an MBA degree, and is a really talented break-dancer!) They have so much to give to the world!
I thought, I am 60, almost twice her age. Oh, to be young again, and ready to GIVE to the world…in a position to CHANGE the world! And then her words rang in my ears. Humbly, I thought, perhaps I had already ‘changed the world’, so to speak…starting thirty years ago. My “accomplishments” had spanned three decades, but I had discounted them. Now, as the next generation, she was ready to do her part.
The reasoning in my head continued: Every one of us, no matter what age, no matter what we have done, has changed the world! And each of us continues to change the world; we are continuously afforded the opportunity!
The familiar DJ tunes and laughter had almost drowned out our voices, so we had to shout in each other’s ears. It wasn't a long conversation, but Jen's words were inspiring. Jen gave me a most valuable gift . . . reminding me that I guess I was changing the world.
I am anxious to share this at my class, with my peers (literally), this Tuesday night, as I continue working on my Peer Specialist certification. I hope I can deliver the message to them with confidence and joy, but there will probably be tears, too. This is a group that is training to be in the "shoulder-to-shoulder" army, in the field of mental health.
To Jen, I say, “You have renewed my joy and excitement to keep pursuing new goals, to remember the gifts that I have…and look forward to encouraging others to see their strengths and give them hope . . . and for them to do the same for others. Please know that you have given me a little piece of your heart, and I’ll be sharing that with the world…changing. . . the world.