Friday, June 5, 2009

You Don't Have to Change The World... just have to make a difference in someone else's.

On the way to work this morning, I drove past our local Fire Station.  Outside the Fire Station is a small fire hydrant sculpture flanked by two Dalmation statues.

Every night, usually, we take a walk around our neighborhood which always takes us past the Fire Station.  Every single time, we have to stop so that our 2 year old can "see" the dogs.  For some reason, she puts a small rock on each of their heads, gives them a hug and we continue our walk.  The next time we go, the rocks are mysteriously gone, and we repeat the process again.

When I drove past the Fire Station this morning, I looked over at the dogs and noticed that the rocks were still there, sitting on top of each dog's head, exactly where our daughter had put them last night.  Even though I knew she was safe and sleeping in her bed, I felt a little twinge of missing her, and wanting to see her right at that moment.  It felt kind of silly, but it made me think that this tiny little act, this "rock on the head" custom that we participate in, is huge to me.  It made a difference to me to know that this little ritual can have such a colossal effect on my mood and psyche. It was proof, right at that moment, that the past can help to shape the future and everything we do, every decision we make, ultimately has an impact.  What we think may be only a ripple turns out sometimes to be a tidal wave to someone else.

So philosophy takes over, and I start thinking about how the tiniest of acts can make an enormous difference to others.  In particular, how teachers interact with their students, how teachers interact with each other, and how administrators interact with their teachers.  It makes me think about how our world is closing in, and that participation in all of these social networking tools may be small acts, but they are changing the world one tweet at a time.

I like that the context of my day can be metaphorical for the world we're living in now, and how so many of these tiny daily interactions make the world of difference to me, the people I work with and teach, and ultimately the kids who benefit from a richer, more multi-layered educational experience.

Our daughter wasn't looking to change the world, but she did change mine this morning.  How often do we let these little subtleties of life shape us?  How often are our eyes open to notice them?  How willing are we to let these little things have an effect?

This is what the participatory culture is all about, having an effect on each other, no matter how small, and letting those tiny changes make the biggest difference.

In just a few hours, it will be time for another walk; it will be another opportunity to enjoy the fresh air, visit the dogs, place a couple of rocks on their heads, and change the world again.


  1. Although my mission in life is to change the world, I completely understand what you're saying here. As you state, the "little subtleties of life" are what shape us as humans and as a culture but what is "small" to one person could be a huge deal to another.

    Our society - the US and more specifically us New Yorkers - is very jaded. Small differences seem to mean nothing to most people these days. What could change that?

    If each of us does 1 random act of kindness per week/month/quarter. The more we see people helping others (strangers especially) the more we see not every "change" is on a grandiose scale. You don't have to start your own socially responsible business or nonprofit organization. Those changes are huge and not meant to be taken on by everyone. But a small yet powerful act like helping an illiterate person fill out a job application is MORE THAN ENOUGH for some.

    Wanting to change the world is a good thing but often times, the best change comes from one person doing a small act for someone else.

    We have posts about Random Acts of Kindness on our blog, Make Social Change A Reality. I've included links below in case your readers are interested in reading more.

    Elizabeth Willse's Random Act of Kindness -

    Take Baby Steps to Change the World -

    Great post! Glad to see your daughter was able to change your world, for the day at least, in such a big way. Aren't kids the greatest?!

    Chanelle Carver
    Make Social Change A Reality -
    Connect with me on Twitter -

  2. The smallest gesture can have a profound impact. I remember fondly how my own children have done little things to change my world.

    You are a lucky dad!

    Thanks for bringing them back for me Mike!

  3. I've had principals change my world dramatically in just a few words or gestures. I don't know if they meant to, but they certainly had an effect.

    In one case, it was for the negative. I proposed a way of constructing a school within a school to aid students who had failed repeatedly. My principal laughed in my face. I knew at that point that was a school where I did not want to work. I needed a more supportive environment so that I could have support to move kids ahead.

    Several years later at another school, I stood at the copier at 5:30 in the afternoon making sets of reading materials for my students. The principal walked by several times, and finally I said, "I know you're wondering why I'm making all these copies, but I really feel that the kids need their own copies, so that they can mark the text, etc." She replied, "Anne, it never occured to me to question what you are doing. You are a professional, and I know that whatever you are doing, it is in the best interst of kids." With that response, I knew I had found a school and a supportive principal where I would want to work forever. That small gesture on her part made me want to work harder and do more for the kids that we serve. I only wish that the kids at the previous school had had the benefit of such a wonderful principal.