SOCIAL MEDIA

09 July 2014

A Moment's Legacy

I remember when I was at a fast-food restaurant and while my family finished their order I was sent ahead to find a table for 9 where we could sit. A lady  walked up to take away the chair next to me at the table I chose. I turned to her and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry, but my family is coming to sit here right now, so we need the chairs." She walked away in a huff, saying loudly, to no one in particular, "Some people just think they can save everything!"

I remember when I was wandering around a grocery store and a lady stopped me and said, "I just have to tell you that your shoes are too cute!"

I remember being 13 years old, about to sit down in my seat on an airplane when the lady sitting directly in front of me jumped up out of her chair, turned to me and said, quite viciously, "If you kick or bump my chair ONE TIME I will immediately call the stewardess and have you removed to another part of the airplane."

I remember one time, after a play I performed in as a teenager, a random man came up to tell me: "You are very talented. I wouldn't be surprised if you end up as a professional actress one day."

I remember walking into an elevator with my mom and the lady inside sneering and spitting out the words: "Orang putih!" ("white people")

I remember a girl who thrust a doughnut and a napkin into my hands after seeing me walk into one of the buildings on my college campus sobbing, my makeup ruined with tears. "Eat this," she said, "Sugar will make you feel better."

I remember a cosmetologist who spent my entire haircut railing on about lazy, dirty, no-good Hispanics who use up government funds.

 {I don't think it's ever a good idea to go on political/social rants of that sort while cutting a client's hair...but it's probably an even worse idea if your client is married to a 2nd gen. Mexican...}
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I don't know any of these people. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't even recognize them again if I saw them. I've only had momentary encounters with each one of them, but I've remembered each of them for years.

We never know what kind of an impact we make on the people around us. With most people, we may get one, and only one, chance to make an impression.

All of the encounters I mentioned above left an impression of that person on me. I may have been confused, offended, had my feelings hurt, or I may have walked away with a smile, feeling unusually appreciated and cared for.

Maybe a moment isn't enough to judge the true character of a person. Maybe the lady who snapped at me on the airplane isn't a grumpy kid-hater, maybe she was just feeling really sick and having a bad day, but normally she's really nice. Maybe the girl who gave me her doughnut to cheer me up isn't actually a kindhearted person, maybe she's mean and stingy and accidentally had a moment of generosity that she regretted forever because now she didn't have a doughnut to eat.

I mean, maybe. But even if those scenarios were true, I would never know from their actions to me. From my encounters with these people, all I know about them is the legacy that they displayed in the moment that I knew them. Maybe the "Orang putih!" lady and the cosmetologist aren't actually vocal racists. Maybe.

We all experience encounters where we only get a moment to leave a legacy. When a stranger stumbles and steps on your toe while passing you in the street, in that moment you have a choice of how to respond, of how they will forever remember you. When buying a pack of gum at the gas station, when sharing an elevator, when a teenage girl like me walks by with tears running down her face...

I know I've left legacies that I'm ashamed of now. In the moment, I was annoyed, or my temper flared up and I said something I now wish I didn't say. But the moment is gone. Chances are slim I'll ever run into that person again, and there's no way to change the legacy I left.

It's worth considering. Most of us think about the legacy that we want to leave at the end of a life's work done. But how often do we consider what kind of legacy do we want to leave after a momentary encounter with a stranger?

It may not seem like it at the time, but a moment matters.

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Do you have a story, or a few, about an encounter with a stranger that left a strong mark on your memory, for better or worse?

24 comments :

  1. So well said, and so good to consider!

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  2. Great writing! And great reminders!!! Love this!

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  3. So very true. It's funny how such brief positive or negative moments can stick with you.

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  4. I too remember similar situations and I don't know why. Some things that are said to us, I guess get stuck in our memories forever and we have a hard time forgetting them. Very cute & funny post, Rachel. =)

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  5. LOVE this. your words ring with truth :)

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  6. Wow. I love how you really make me think sometimes. :)
    Debbie
    www.fashionfairydust.blogspot.com

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  7. what a thought to ponder! I've thought more bigger picture of the legacy I want to leave but to think that my every action leaves a legacy in some way...that's huge!

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  8. This is so spot on, Rachel! I enjoyed reading your good and not so good encounters with people. You're so right that these little moments are fleeting, but can have big impacts on you for years to come. I remember a girl walking up to me one time and saying that she loved my headband. I was having a crappy day and was wondering if I looked silly wearing the headband I made, but her sweet comment made me feel on top of the world. I often think of this moment and try to make it a point to tell strangers if I like their outfit or purse, etc., because they should know that others are admiring their choices. That's what I like about commenting on blogs--it's a great way to spread a little happiness to people each day just by saying hello, that you like what they did/wore, or that you believe in them:) So hope you're having a great day, beautiful Rachel!

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  9. I love everything about this post. I do have a few stories like this, would you consider it flattery or offensive if I borrowed this topic for my own blog? :)

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  10. This is such an excellent post! I need to think more about how people perceive me in those brief moments. It's a learning process for me.

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  11. Such a thought provoking post. I am going to be thinking about this for a while. I wonder what impressions I leave.

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  12. Everything you said is so true. I found myself laughing along at the little moments that stayed with you and then immediately scanning my memory to make sure I haven't been a grumpy kid-hater to anyone lately haha. Even so, I love the idea that a moment is all it takes sometimes.

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  13. This is a must read. I rarely think about the legacy I leave in a momentary encounter. How I react in that brief moment says a lot about my character. I need to be more conscious of this in the future.

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  14. Wonderful post, Rachel! I once went to a very nice store with my mother. With combed hair, nice shoes, makeup, earrings, we decided not to bother with fancy attire for fun shopping. We wore jeans and fall-colored denim shirts (they were ironed btw). Anyway, while the owner was nice, there was another mother/daughter/granddaughter group in the store as well. Neither woman was looking after the child and were very rude to my mother and I. I was prepared to deal with their attitudes, but when the six year old brushed in front of me I was surprised. When she glanced back at me giving me the once over & then turned around with her nose in the air, I was actually upset. I thought how poorly mannered she was then, and I highly doubt she is any better now. Of course, like you said, such may not be the case.

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  15. Okay, so I absolutely loved this post. There was a book my teacher once had (and read a few pages to us from) where every sentence began with "I remember" and it was just a chain of remembering and what brought on another memory, and this is what that reminds me of. I really love the idea of leaving an impression on a stranger and thinking of the strangers who I encounter...

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  16. Wow, there is so much truth to this. Those moments when a stranger has blessed my day by a little comment in passing, has inspired me to do the same. I try to do my best to be kind to strangers because of that. Great thoughts here!

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    1. Oh, and also because I'm a nice person too, haha! ;)

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  17. Too true! This is why when I see something that I like on a person (hair, clothes, accessories, etc) I compliment them, regardless of if I know them or not!

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  18. this post resonates with me so, so much. i've had similar encounters, and that's why i try always and always to try and make a positive impression or make someone's day a little better. and you know what? despite all that effort, i have days and moments when i'm upset or frustrated or in a hurry and i'm the person that MAKES A BAD IMPRESSION-- none of us are perfect, but i think we can make more impressions than bad if we set our mind to it :)

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  19. I love this post, it's so true! We never know what our encounters will mean to one another, and we never know what each other are going through, so it's important to be our best selves.

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  20. I loved this post because I believe we can't always be in a good mood but no one has to pay for it. Everyone is struggling with something and we need to be less selfish and at least try to smile.

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  21. Wow. What a wonderfully written thought.

    I love how you can make me think differently.

    I often try to tell myself that we never know what kind of a day the person in front of us has suffered.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  22. This is a great post! I think I have several. I can mostly remember my commute to and from work. There was this woman who asked me to hand over her fare to the driver. She asked nicely but she might not have noticed that I had a baby bump and I was even having a hard time to move. I guess I gave her a grumpy face! Not so good of a legacy. And well, you're right -- a moment really matters. I wouldn't remember that lady but she would probably remember our encounter.

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  23. We ALWAYS need to remember that what we do and say affects others - whether for the good or for the bad. This is such a great reminder!

    Thanks for linking up with the Faith and Fellowship blog hop!

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