“Your impact on other people is bigger than you think. Someone still giggles when they think of that funny thing you said. Someone still smiles when they think of the compliment you gave them. Someone silently admires you. The advice you give has made a difference for people. The support and love you’ve offered others has made someone’s day. Your input and opinions have made someone think twice. You’re not insignificant and forgotten. Your existence makes a positive difference, whether you see it or not.” – @tinybuddha

I loved the above passage as it read it while scrolling through Instagram.

More than that…I needed it.

“Insignificant” is a feeling I seem to fear more often as I get older. And not in some weird powerful or look how special I am sense of the word, but rather in terms of usefulness. I simply worry about not having something worthwhile to contribute — be it my skills at work, meaningful input during conversations, or useful motherly support for my grown, wonderfully self-sufficient children.

But tonight I started thinking about some of the strangers I’ve encountered during my frequent visits to the park. The kind, older gentleman who told me I was beautiful when he greeted me on the path. The elderly Black woman who gushed, “Ohhh, God bless you, baby girl!” and put her hands over her heart when I told her I loved her hair. The two teenage boys who stopped their walk and conversation to love on Finn and ask me questions about him — and were genuinely interested in the answers. The man who joined in the frantic search for my lost car keys, only to laugh with me when I found them in my pocket. The young woman who named her Golden Retriever Stanley because her fiancĂ© is the “world’s biggest Blues fan.” The bird watchers who so generously share their knowledge – and viewfinders on their extraordinarily expensive camera gear – when the owls are nesting near the Muny.

The list goes on. These encounters lasted only a few minutes – sometimes seconds – but each person has stuck with me in the form of smiles, gratitude, even laughter when I think about them now. And they have no idea.

So perhaps I don’t need to continue worrying about my impact or insignificance. Instead, I should perhaps focus on making an impact by being truly present to others – both familiar and unknown, and offer kindness, help, humor and sincere compliments as often as I can. Even if I can only make a difference for one person, that’s still a big deal for that person – whether I can see it or not.

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