The power to make a positive difference without knowing it

Today, I want to share one of my favorite stories of being a professor. It’s a story that I’ve told for a number of years now, since 2017, about the power that we have to positively impact each other.

It’s amazing what human beings can accomplish – the power that we each have. What’s even more amazing to me is that we have the power to make an enormous positive difference in the lives of others, often without even realizing it. Back in 2017, there was one day when I was sitting in my office and looking at the list of all the undergrads in my lab that had graduated, and what they were doing after graduation. And I recalled this one student that I had, I’ll call him Henry. He graduated in 2015. He had a rough senior year. His best friend died in a fluke accident on New Year’s Eve. He mostly kept to himself and, unlike most students in my lab, I didn’t really get to know him very well. But he was a member of my research team that I highly valued. And we did have one potentially meaningful conversation sometime after his friend’s death. But we hadn’t kept in touch after he graduated. And I was looking at his name, and I was thinking, huh, I wonder what happened to Henry. And right then, someone from my lab walked in with the mail – and she handed me a letter – and it was from Henry.  It was a 2 page handwritten note telling me that he was doing great, working at a company in a job that he loved, and that he wanted to thank me for saving his life. I hadn’t even known that I had any real impact on him.  But he wrote, “You saved me, Dr. Lowery.  You truly did.”

I was struck by the magic of that moment. That I was thinking about Henry, a student that I had not thought about in two years, and suddenly, a letter from him appeared before me within moments. And not only did he answer my questions that were in my head, but then he told me that I actually had helped him. When I had no idea that I had done so.  

Everyone has moments like this in life –  where you make a difference without knowing it. I was fortunate to hear about it in this situation, but most of the time, we are unaware of all the positive ripples from the good that we do. 

So I just want to remind you. You have power. You have power greater than you might ever imagine for changing the world – one person, one moment, at a time. 

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