Make your actions matter to the people in your world

Thought for the day, courtesy of Jane Goodall:

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.

It could be something as simple as smiling at a stranger or calling a friend just to say “hi,” or something as involved as volunteering time or donating resources to a cause you care about. The things you do and don’t do — every day — have an impact on this world and the people around you.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting an old high school math teacher at a garage sale he was co-ordinating on behalf of a friend. This gentleman had always struck me as a rather serious individual, quite absorbed in the world of mathematics, but on this day, years out of his classroom, I saw another, gentler and more real side of him.

Over the course of our conversation, he told me how much the field of mathematics continues to thrill him, and how, now that he is retired, he might easily hole himself up in his home office for days on end, hard at work on a difficult proof passed along by his own graduate studies professor years ago. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in that,” he said, “and to say to my wife, ‘No, don’t bother me, don’t invite people over, leave me alone, I just want to work on this.’ ”

“But,” he said with warmth in his eyes, “I make sure I don’t do that! I limit my time in the office working on math because it can be isolating, and it’s the people in my life that really matter — being able to take care of my grandchildren, go walking with my wife, take time to help a friend like I’m doing now. In the end, people and relationships are so much more important than a mathematical proof. I know that, and I make sure I live my life according to that order of priority.”

This is a man who has made a good decision about the direction and focus of his life, and because of that decision, he makes a positive difference in the lives of the people around him. Yesterday, he made a positive difference in mine.

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