When Ripples Make Waves: How Small Gestures Add Up To Big Impacts

By: Sherry Levine, Regular Contributor


I've been thinking a lot recently about the depth and complexities of a human being. As a race we have learned to understand and explain these complexities and everyday situations in our lives by using well-known quotes or sayings, truisms, or mantras. It’s so important and necessary for us as a people to understand the guy next door, the actions of our good friends, and the things we all go through. Yet, often times, rather than trying to simply understand, we move to judge.

One way we try to understand life is by using and writing quotes that broadly generalize common situations in people's lives. As someone who enjoys observing the human way, I thoroughly enjoy quotes about life! Although sometimes cheesy and seemingly cliché, it's not only what is touched on in the words of the quote that's meaningful, but more importantly, how it makes an individual feel inside. It's really important to appreciate that this feeling is unique to that person and that person only. This feeling is a culmination and effect of all the past experiences in that person's life. 

So personally, I enjoy reading famous, philosophical quotes because of how instantly it can open the gates to examination of one’s own life. Yes, quotes relay good advice and inspiration, but they also produce major self-reflection. When we read a quote, first we relate its meaning back to ourselves and our own lives. Does this quote relate to me? Does it relate to my situation and who I want to be or my life and how I feel? And if not, we can move onto the next quote until we find one that does.

Two people can read the same quote and feel two completely different things. It can portray a strength one person has, a fear of another; for someone else it can connote a constant fight, and for someone else the quote might not be relatable at all. After reading a list of quotes, the one that speaks to you the most, makes you feel something off the bat, can instantly shine light on a struggle present in your life, or inspire you to engage in an act you've been hesitant about. A quote is only meaningful if it ignites something inside of you, that's its sole purpose. If a quote helps you stop, think and reflect on your life, it has done its job.

There's this quote I heard once and for whatever reason, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew I wanted to remember its meaning for the rest of my life, and I want to share the lesson with all of you. The famous quote by poet Maya Angelou, one many of you have probably heard before, is this:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." 

It's so simple, yet meant so much to me. It's so general, but so unforgettable. Here’s what it triggered in me.

With so much going on in our lives, it's so easy to disregard that a person hugged you at a certain moment, or texted you something sweet, or smiled at you during a tough time, but you will always associate that person with making you feel good or warm inside: that someone cared about you, worried about you, gave you strength, or gave you hope. It is not only the actions we go through every day, but it is the purpose behind those actions; it is the intentions of the smile, the pat on the back, the nice text, or the “how was your day?” Never underestimate the way you can make someone feel, the impact you can have on someone, the power of your words, and the significance of your actions. And isn't it true that somewhere inside, you always remember if a person you've come in contact with made you feel nice and safe or weird and uncomfortable? The people around you will never forget that, and you shouldn't either. 

The same way a quote gives us a special feeling, so do the people we come in contact with in our lives. A feeling only we can understand. A feeling inside that may be completely different from the next person, due to our different journeys and experiences. No one will ever be able to understand how someone makes you feel inside except yourself. It's impossible to fully comprehend the complexities and special little intricacies of other people's relationships. The act of defining someone else's effect on another person and vice versa can be hurtful. The way another person makes you feel is dear to you and only you and should never be defined by someone else. Never underestimate your ability to brighten someone’s day with one gesture, or tear it down with one word. Never underestimate the depth of a fellow human being, and be weary of those that try hard to define you. Everyone deserves to be understood, but never limited to a definition.  

About Sherry: I am Sherry Levine. A 26-year-old woman committed to supporting and inspiring women in any way I can. With my contributions to I AM THAT GIRL and my life-coaching program Generation Teen, designed to provide guidance to everyday teen girls, it is my mission to encourage and empower all woman to create the happiest and most fulfilling life possible.  


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