From the time we are young, the teachers and leading adult figures in our lives tell us that we have the potential to "make a difference" in some enormous way. We are told that each and every one of us is going to alter the course of history on a grand scale.
I'm sorry to burst the bubble, but that's just not true. If each and every person who ever walked this earth left a monumental mark, no one would be outstanding or memorable. We can't all change the world. It's just not possible.
We tell our children that they can be astronauts or doctors who cure cancer and by doing this we often tell our children lies. We give them an impossible expectation to live up to. While people are bound for greatness or find greatness, not everyone will achieve "greatness," at least not in the narrow way it has traditionally been defined. Greatness is more than being someone whose name fourth graders have to memorize for a history test. Living a full life and "leaving a mark" does not have to mean you obtained a position of social or political power.
Millions of great people do great things every single day, but we do not hear about it on the news or study these kind acts in history books. Doctors save lives, teachers inspire students, children share their toys, counselors help redirect those who are lost, interior decorators give families a fresh start in a beautiful home. There are so many different ways, so many things we are trained to consider small or insignificant, that a person does to make a another's day better. People's lives are altered, or even saved, every single day, simply because someone else was selfless enough to put another person's needs before their own.
We should not tell our children that they all can be the president of the United States when they grow up. We shouldn't feed our youth these unrealistic expectations about their future. We should instead tell them what they are more likely to do and how these achievable goals can affect others.
Our children can "make a difference" in ways other than the traditional sense of the phrase. Smiling at someone can save their life. Being kind when all you want to do is break down can help turn around someone else's worst day. We have the power to be kind, understanding, patient and loving every moment we are alive. The greatest difference we can make is hidden in the way we treat people.
We can be bold and memorable. Though hundreds of years from now we may not be remembered, what is important is the impact we leave on those we loved the most. We can try our hardest to be selfless and make the journey of life a little easier for everyone we encounter. We can be happy and grateful for life instead of counting all the bad things that happened to us. We can spread love and encourage those around us to do the same.
So no, you probably will not be the president of the United States or someone famous someday. But that's OK. There are so many other great things that you will be.