The Marks We Leave on the World

By Jordan McNeil

“Our church isn’t going to be big enough for all the people that are going to come.”

My youngest sister said that in regards to funeral preparations for our grandmother last week. My mother and other sister firmly agreed with her sentiment, but I was left wondering if really that many people were going to show up.

It turns out that they were right.

My grandmother touched the lives of so many in her lifetime. Whether it was through activity with Grange, selling Nature’s Sunshine supplements — earning her the title of “the herb lady” — raising goats, helping with the fair and 4-H or just simply being a good neighbor, she reached more people than I could truly imagine.

Even knowing how active she was in various communities, I couldn’t fathom what that actually meant until I saw it for myself. My mother continuously whispered under her breath “Oh my goodness” when new people walked in, surprised that so many people from her past, who my grandmother hadn’t seen for decades, came to say goodbye.

I was approached by a lot of people — some I knew, others I had never seen before — at calling hours who told me their stories of my grandmother and how she helped them get better with her herb business, or taught them life lessons in 4-H, or gave them a home-away-from-home when they were young. I learned that my grandmother was always helping out others, even in the smallest, most innocent ways.

I learned that you don’t need to do something huge or monumental to leave a mark on the world.

It sounds very cliche to say that little interactions with people — a compliment, a smile, a “good morning” — can leave lasting impressions, can change someone’s day, maybe even their life. But it’s true; I’ve seen the evidence.

You don’t need to swoop in to save the day by performing life-saving surgery or stopping a mugging to leave a mark. Tutors at the CSP and the Writing Center leave a mark on the students they help by helping them understand their classes better, and maybe even improve their grades. Volunteers leave a mark on both the organizations they are doing the work for and the people who are affected by that, by showing them all that there are those in the community who care.

The man on the bus leaves a mark on the person he gives up his seat for. People passing each other on the street leave a mark on each other when they are kind — a compliment, a smile, a “good morning.”

You don’t need to be famous, or a public figure, or part of a large organization or project to leave your mark on the world. You leave your mark in the day-to-day, in your daily interactions with others and the world around you.

You are leaving marks now — it doesn’t wait until you’ve graduated and entered the adult world with a big-time profession, it’s happening right now. Are you happy with the marks you are leaving?