Impact is a big word. This year gave us a huge example of the impact we can have on others. Robert Smith made an extremely generous donation. He told the 2019 graduating class from Morehouse that he would pay off their student loans. A gift of over $40 million. That’s major, positive impact.
Let’s talk about the not so great power of impact first. We make choices every single day about the impact we will have on others. Actions and words that we don’t think twice about may impact others in a negative way.
I was facilitating a class a few years back and made an off-hand comment about white males being lucky. I was trying to be funny. As soon as I said it though, I could see the faces of the white males in front of me fall. Where I was thinking I was making a non-important, throw away comment, they felt the impact of my words and shut down. That was an eye opening experience on impact. I am always learning and growing. But negative impacts can be even broader than the individual.
First, I worry about the negative impacts we are having on our nation and world today. I wonder what the impact will be to taking immigrant children away from their parents. The impact of putting them in detention centers. The long-lasting impacts will not be realized for many years I’m afraid.
I wonder about the impact to a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant from the assault. She is not allowed to abort the fetus and might have to deal with shared custody of the child once it is born.
I wonder about the impact of taking away human rights because of sexual orientation and identity. The complete lack of compassion will make a lasting impact on the adults in the LGBT+ community. It will also impact young children who are confused about where they fit in. Bullying and suicide make an impact.
I wonder about the impact of the continued hatred of people. Those who have different religious beliefs or worship in a different way than you. I wonder about the impact of shootings in black churches, synagogues, and mosques. Who are we losing in these deadly attacks? There will be impact to all religions.
I wonder about the impact of school shootings. The children who will never grow up and realize their full potential. The children who struggle with learning because they are too worried about dying.
As a result of all these, I wonder about the impact.
However, when things seem bleak and I want to go bury my head in the sand, I focus on positive impact. The positive impact happening around the world.
I think of the impact that Angela is having on the LGBT+ community. She partners with business leaders to drive basic human rights. She focuses on safe places at work and in the community.
I think of the impact of Kimberly. She is building spaces where homeless people can heal, both physically and mentally.
I think of the impact of Nicole. She is working on basic human dignity tools for adults with developmental disabilities.
I think of the impact of so many people who are doing the work to drive positive change. Therefore, I think about what could the impact be.
The impact we could make with immigration reform around the globe. The impact we could make by educating all people about contraception. Driving tougher laws on sexual predators. The impact we could make with gun regulation and education. The impact we could make by being open-minded and accepting of all religions. What impact could we make by celebrating people’s differences? What impact could we make by listening and caring for those with mental illnesses? In light of all of this, what we could do by harnessing the power of all to drive innovation?
I do not pretend to have the answers to these tough issues. But what I can say is that our words and our actions have an impact. We can choose to make a negative impact on someone through our words and actions. Or we can drive positive impacts by listening and opening our minds and our hearts to others.
Take a few minutes today and think about the impact you want to make.