Think about the people who have made the most impact in your life.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably wasted precious time paying attention to strangers whose faces you recognize: celebrities, “role models,” influencers (great word — it doesn’t even try to hide its intent) and an assortment of pushed and publicized others who are largely famous for being famous. It’s easy to confuse our familiarity with their public persona for some sort of relationship.
But the ones who matter, the ones who make a lifetime impact, generally don’t post viral social media posts or attract the paparazzi. Many of them won’t show up on the Internet at all, other than on the White Pages.
One of these is my high school English teacher, a woman I haven’t seen for many, many years. But her actions, her mien, her deportment, showed me at a young age what class, compassion, respect and honor look like.
I never heard her raise her voice, because she didn’t have to. And while she clearly expected respect from each of her students, it was willingly given because we knew that she just as clearly respected us first, treating a motley crew of potential teenage rabble as intelligent, reasonable adults. We sought to do our best for her not because we were afraid of her, but because we valued her esteem. And her esteem was worth valuing.
This is not a compliment that the famous for being famous have earned, nor deserve. (Perhaps, just perhaps, we might stop giving it to them?)
The artwork, “The Hairpin,” invites us to look deep within ourselves and contemplate the type of person we want to be. We do not become good, wise, kind people by accident.
It is through our experiences, our interaction with others, and a great deal of thinking and meditation that we grow, day by day, into a person of grace, wisdom and kindness — a person, in short, worth emulating. Fingers running through her hair, the young woman stops, arrested by a thought that needs to be explored — and that thought has little to do with the placement of the hairpin.
Quiet, intense contemplation: When we engage in this, we look as if we are doing nothing, but in truth, we are doing something incredible. We are taking the next step toward becoming a person whose impact on the world — while it won’t result in likes, shares, reposts and a mention on whatever talk show is in vogue for the next ten minutes — will make an impact that lasts.