Have you ever read The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom? I read it years ago, but it’s a book I think about often (and definitely recommend if you haven’t).
The premise is about a guy who dies, and goes to heaven, where he meets five particular people; the five people who have either had the biggest impact on his life, or those whose lives he has impacted most.
The main character expects to meet his parents, his wife, and the other people he knows best. But it turns out that’s not always the case… Some of the people are those he barely knew, and some he’d never even met. But in every case their lives were interwoven with his and ever one has a lesson to teach him.
The book is brilliant and I can’t recommend it enough, so I won’t spoil it for you by telling you any more. But I will say that, ironically, it’s one of the reads that’s had the biggest impact on the way I see the world for any number of reasons.
Possibly most of all though, because of the way it made me re-think my life, and the lives I touch on the journey through it; something I thought I’d stop and remind you of too.
If I stop and think right now of the people who touched my life, there are stacks that I know: the family members who’ve loved me and shaped my view of the world, the friends who’ve supported me through even the toughest of times, and the teachers and inspirers who’ve brought me something brand new which has opened my mind for starters.
But what about those I didn’t? The funny incidents I witnessed with strangers and still smile at today; the man who pulled me out of a swimming pool I fell into when I was three or four; the random tweets from strangers that appear in my feed and change my whole view of a situation or incident.
And then there are those I’ve never even met: people like the man who murdered a family member of mine in a nightclub when I was six or seven and shaped my view of going out socially years before I set foot in a pub; the person who was originally offered my first corporate job, but stepped down from it leading them to offer me the position; not to mention the thousands of people who may have dropped pieces of litter that caused me to trip, the car accidents that caused road blocks which led me to drive in a different direction, the people who happened to fill up tables in my preferred restaurant so I had to eat somewhere else… The examples are endless, just as they are with all of us.
And they are with you too. Because each and every one of us are touched by hundreds, if not thousands, of people in a myriad of ways every single day.
Those impacts range from the smallest of butterfly effect moments to the biggest of changes, but often the people responsible don’t even realise the impact they’ve had.
You know what that means? That often you don’t realise the impact you’ve had either.
Of course you can never know how many times the right word, a friendly smile, or just simply being there for someone has helped them; but you also don’t know how often your very presence in the world has helped unknowingly change the life of another person, or put them onto the exact path they were meant to find.
There was a TV advert here in the UK recently for the coffee brand Nescafe which made me cry every time I watched it. You can watch it here, but basically it involves a man standing in front of a crowd of all the people he’s ever met, asking about the impact he’s had on them and choosing to reconnect with some (over a coffee, obviously).
Now I’m not suggesting you reconnect with anyone from your past unless you want to, but seriously – stop and think about every person you know you’ve had a positive or a negative impact on in the past…
Add that to every person you’ve ever met – and if you can keep track of that then you’re a better person than me – because everyone we meet impacts us in some way.
If you could physically count those people and add them all together you’d be looking at a pretty big number now, eh? But honestly, that’s not even anywhere close. Because undoubtedly you’d need to multiply by thousands in order to get the real figure for the number of lives you’ve impacted.
Think about everyone who’s ever set foot somewhere after you; been to a school you attended or joined a company you worked for. Think of the future friends and partners of the people you shared experiences or words of wisdom with who have gone on to share those onwards to multiple friends and so on and so on.
I’ve never been much of a maths fan, so if I try to think about the numbers it starts to get pretty mindblowing I know. But fortunately that’s not the point, this has never really been about number.
The point is to encourage you to think about the impacts you’ve had on the lives you’ve encountered and so, on the world at large.
The point is to remind you that you are important.
Not just because of the work that you do or the things that you share, but simply because you are here and you are you.