At some juncture in our lifetime, most of us have been tasked with the ordeal of studying for an exam where the stakes were high. The rite of passage to attaining the gratifying result consisted of late nights, long hours, declined invitations in our social calendar and a sizable amount of sleep deprivation.
Let’s illustrate this with the SAT: never before have three letters sounded worse in your high school existence. The exam is devised to quantify the speed and accuracy with which the brain can decipher information and draw logical conclusions. On an exam where the test taker is penalized for every incorrect answer, we continue to find it difficult to detach ourselves from that one question; that question where we eliminated the outstanding choices and found ourselves encumbered by the 50:50 probability of getting it just right. So we defied rationality and spent just a few extra minutes with our internal dialogue despite the ticking clock. We spent so much time on that one question, it’s only fair that we master it before time runs out, right? Wrong. Allow me to be the messenger of news you already knew: skip that question! In the grand scheme of the exam, one question does not determine the entirety of your score. Likewise, in grand scheme of our existence, our accomplishments do not define our lives. What truly defines a human being is his/her ability to be humane.
We govern our lives by the microscopic details of the present moment, often forgetting that we coexist in a macrocosm, where our individual interactions shape the greater community. It’s not the lack of passion that brings about a lack of change, for we govern our lives by this emotion; what we truly lack is the ability to think outside of ourselves. We have the ability to access the world at our fingertips yet we’re baffled when tasked with identifying countries on the world map. We can recite Newton’s third law of motion verbatim yet we fail to remember the birthday of a loved one without the telltale Facebook reminder. We simmer up at the slightest nudge of external stimuli yet we successfully ignore those who go above and beyond to facilitate our wants and needs. In our quest for time, we have more trouble slowing down than we do speeding up.
We’re told we comprise the universe within ourselves through the ability to think, and indeed we do, yet somewhere in the midst of making a living we lose sight of what’s truly important: compassion. We live in the paradoxical “now or sooner" mindset and lose sight of what truly matters: compassion toward the needy, a smile to someone who least expects it, an open heart in the face of conflict and a patient ear in the midst of noise. One need not be a philanthropist to make a difference in his/her community, for the act of giving encompasses both intangible and tangible offerings. While some individuals choose to donate money and resources, others have the ability to devote their time and services.
We underestimate the power an individual possesses in bringing about change, often forgetting that the ocean would not remain unchanged should every drop within it dry up. It’s important to remember that the world changes with our actions and every small effort catalyzes change in the world, one action at a time.