Update – A longer version of this piece has now been published on StyleNoir here
Sometimes it’s easy to feel very small in an unfathomably big world, one tiny person, less than a pin-prick on the surface of the universe. But in my own way, I do do something. And often it’s something rather intangible, but it is there. Over the years I’ve worked with so many patients, sometimes their names and faces start to blur. I wonder if they remember me? Perhaps they don’t but maybe a little slither of something I said has stayed behind.
In the best-case scenario, when I work with someone, they come away with a real, positive benefit. A bit more happiness, a bit less sadness and stress. But it’d be idealistic to think that always happens, it doesn’t. I hope at the very least, they take away the experience of having someone else listen to them, and not judging them, even if as a person I’ve all but left their consciousness.
I have a friend who works in research and he tells me that to him ‘people will always be a sample‘. You don’t always get to see the impact, the implications of your work, where it gets taken. I prefer to work on a one-to-one basis, although I am aware of the limitations of this. Perhaps I can help one person, but millions are still left, millions developing problems and millions getting worse. Though if I dwelt on that for too long I probably wouldn’t want to ever get out of bed, let alone go to work!
Someone I met recently encouraged me to reflect on the chain of events, the links between my actions and the rest of the world. If I work with someone with severe social anxiety, and I help them to be just a little less nervous, they may go on to interact with more people. I think of the conversations they’ll have, that might otherwise have never taken place, the information these conversations will convey, this exchange. They pass on something from our interaction on to others, in subtle ways. We weave a complicated web, this map of human navigations. I don’t get to see the steps beyond the direct work that I do with an individual, but I know it is out there, occurring. I wonder if that sounds arrogant? I don’t see myself as some kind of all-powerful do-gooder who can mold and manipulate others, but I do sometimes feel humbled to think of the branches that grow out of the small-scale work I do.
And this isn’t isolated to those in the caring professions. When I write something, other people may read it, reflect on it and consider it. They then take these thoughts away with them, and they may, in tiny, subtle ways, alter the way they think and respond to something else in the future. There are ideas there that perhaps weren’t there in the same way before. I’m not egotistical, I know the change I make is very small, sometimes barely noticeable, but it is there because I live and I do, I act on the world. Everything we do changes the world that tiny bit. I change with every person I meet, taking on small parts of my experience of them. I’m a patchwork of everywhere I’ve ever been, everything I’ve ever seen, everyone I’ve ever known.
So, without any real intention, I’m constantly changing the world and the people who inhabit it. So I may as well have a go at changing it for the better. When I do something that doesn’t fit with who I want to be, how I want to live, I make the world that little bit worse. When I choose to ignore someone else’s offensive or cruel behaviour, I become party to an acceptance of it, power behind the message that that sort of thing is ok. When I don’t stand up for the things I believe, I become part of my opposition. Given the power that we all hold, I may as well use the opportunity to express the things I feel strongly about and to spread them through this human network. Everyday I’m making the world a little more of what I’d like it to be. I’m tiny, but I can change the world.
(photo at the top is mine, the lovely Danielle with her rainbow hoop)