Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up.
Once upon a time, I was a lawyer. (And a damn good one — law review, appellate clerkship, office on the 42nd floor of a Manhattan skyscraper. The whole nine yards.) Now I don’t work at all.
Once upon a time, I traveled the world. Sometimes for years at a time. Now I’m often too exhausted to go out for pizza.
Once upon a time, I offered encouragement, support, food, and gifts to family and friends. Now it’s rare that I manage a yearly birthday card.
Once upon a time, I was active in my faith, in volunteer work, in creative hobbies. Now I’m lucky to get online and write a blog post.
When life changes so dramatically, it’s easy to fall into existential crisis. What can I offer the world when all I can offer is … my existence?
A classmate once called me “the kind of person who holds doors open for people.” A stereotypical law school alpha male, he didn’t necessarily mean it as a compliment. But I choose to take it as one; I like being “the kind of person” who makes other people’s lives fractionally easier as we go about our days.
At the same time, I never expect anything from anyone else. When other people offer some small kindness, it’s always a surprise. That touch of surprise means I can thank them and really mean it. The appreciation shines through, and they go about their day feeling better about themselves for having helped.
An Israeli ice cream vendor once told me “You have a … sparkle … And when I look at you, it makes me sparkle too.” The memory is bittersweet because fatigue has dimmed the sparkle. But I still feel it, glimmering, passing from person to person when I smile.
And there you have it: a kind gesture, a thank you, a smile.
On days when I measure myself against the world, it doesn’t feel like much.
But it is something.
It is my something.