Imagine this: You and your family are heading back from a late family gathering. Your dad is driving while your mom is sleeping in the passenger seat. You’re staring out the window in the back seat and your siblings are babbling away. Why can’t they ever stay quiet, it’s past midnight -ugh! The soft radio makes you slowly drift off to sleep. CRASH. A rough jerk and bright flashing lights suddenly wake you up. The front of the car is completely smashed. Your dad is struggling in the driver’s seat while your mom is unconscious and covered with shattered glass. You start panicking and can’t think straight but manage to find your strength and get out of the car, screaming for help. Cars pass by, but no one tries to help. ‘I’ll call the ambulance for them’ they all think, and drive away. But then a white Honda finally stops and offers to drop your family at the nearest hospital. It’s a young girl. Late teens? She doesn’t seem fazed by the situation at hand. A hurried car ride later, you see the doctors tell your father that a few more minutes might have killed your mother.
Wow. Standing in the ER with your sibling cowering behind you, you realize just how close your life was to come crashing down. You have no idea how to thank the girl enough, but you make a promise to yourself that you will never let her go.
And this is how I met my best friend.
When I was driving on the highway that night and saw the distressed family by the roadside, I didn’t think twice before pulling over and offering a ride. It was something I didn’t give much thought to. They need help. There was no more to it. But I never thought that my choice between stopping or not determined whether someone died or lived. My one act changed the entire path that my friend’s life took. That one action made possible moments like the mother waking her children up in the morning and attending my best friend’s graduation. Did I realize the enormity of my decision when I stopped? Of course not. Because many of us underestimate our power to change other’s life.
And that makes sense once you realize that we ourselves are unaware of how observing other affects our own actions and behavior significantly.
Humans are social creatures which means a big part of our lives is influenced by our interactions with the world. Which is why even though we think of our actions as personal, only affecting our life, they can have a significant impact on others.
This is our hidden power. Our ability to change the lives of people around us. Just look around you. Every person has their own life story, their own background, defined by the people they meet, and you can be a part of that. And it doesn’t require you to open a charitable hospital or volunteer in a third-world country. You can change people by the way you behave and carry yourself.
I remember the time I was at a supermarket with my family when my attention went to one of the counters. An employee was talking to a very frustrated customer. The man was being unnecessarily rude and refused to cooperate but there was no frustration in the employee’s eyes. Throughout this incident, he didn’t lose his composure, rather doing all in his power to solve the conflict as soon as possible. Although we never directly interacted, I still remember this scene vividly and find myself thinking back to him whenever I’m in a stressful situation.
We have this incredible power to change someone’s life completely. Sadly, the same power can be used to destroy.
It’s easy to forget the things you’ve said to someone. It’s easy to not think much of your actions. Everyone makes their own decisions in the end, right? You can’t be blamed for someone else’s actions.
But now think back to how you stopped wearing your favorite t-shirt just because of that one comment you got the other day, or how you started wearing your hair a certain way because a coworker complimented you once. You make so many decisions based on other’s actions and comments. Don’t you think others do the same?
So now you know of your hidden powers. Which side do you choose?
Written by Diksha G.
The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.
-David Foster Wallace
R2: The Rice Review
Rice University's undergraduate literary magazine. Here you can find event updates, monthly writing contest winners, and opinions by the R2 staff on what's new, interesting, or subject to discussion in the literary and arts world.