It’s nearly impossible to know when you’ll be moved by something; when something will impact you in such a way that you feel inspired and driven to take on the world. It can happen when you least expect it—a movie, a news headline, the sudden death of a loved one—but when it does finally hit you, that spark inside has the power to do great things.
When I learned of the death of Natasha Richardson in 2009, I, too, had one of those impactful moments. I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened to her, after skiing like so many people do each and every day. Thoughts about her family and last moments ran through my mind over again, and no matter what I tried to distract myself with, I couldn’t shake it. Finally, I stopped trying to. I embraced the tragedy that was knocking loudly at my door and decided to let it in and figure out what to do with it. From that point on, my life has changed forever.
As I analyzed the connection I felt to this situation, I realized that sudden death approaches us just too quickly, before we have a chance to sort out our problems, to send that thank you note, or to finally have that first kiss. Though I knew I could never recreate those moments for people, I wanted to give them a chance to have something like it. I started collecting letters from strangers, asking them to say something they’ve always wanted to say to someone but never did. I knew that just as Natasha’s family would appreciate having that unspoken conversation, others would as well. My letter-collecting project would be called The Things You Would Have Said.
Over the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of hearing from people across the world about moments and experiences they’d like to have shared with loved ones. As I discuss in my recently released book based on the project, “Wives angrily wondered why their husbands had taken their own lives, mothers apologized to their never-born children.” I learned about difficult times, but also of fond memories, and was welcomed into the lives of thousands of strangers. The writers continually tell me how necessary it was for them to participate, and how writing a letter truly gave them a chance to get things off their chest and discover a sense of peace. Through this project, I’m able to help people in a way that I never would have imagined. People have helped me in a way that I never would have imagined.
The Things You Would Have Said has been an unbelievable and uplifting experience, and I couldn’t have started it without first allowing my surroundings to affect me. If I could pass on one lesson I’ve learned, among many, it would be this: let the world ignite something inside of you. Be open to the emotions that surface. Why are you angry? What about this makes you cry? Are you being called to action? Instead of minimizing those answers, embrace them. Be the courageous individuals that you are and use that spark to do good, to change lives, and to make the world a little bit easier to manage for everyone in it. What an honor, right?! I can’t wait to see what happens.
Photo by Astragony
Scribd is a ticket to endless knowledge and entertainment. This unlimited subscription service has been described as the "Netflix for books" because it gives access to millions of audiobooks, ebooks, magazines, comics, and sheet music selections. You can try Scribd free with a 30-day trial. Click here to learn more about Scribd.
Follow us on Instagram
17 thoughts on “Let the World Change Your Life!”
Well, let the world change your life… but in the way that is suitable and favourable for you. Everyone is different. If we take every new technique, advice offered by the world for granted we might lose our own unique value. Anyway, this blog is great and I can recommend it because of its content and useful ideas.
You’re right, Vicky! Everyone is different, for sure. I just think it’s important to be open to the possibilities of what is around us! Thanks for your comment.
I can’t overstate how much I appreciated this post, I loved it! I believe being in a state of “presence” is a big part of what you’re talking about.
I do find myself holding back in many opportunities in life because my past seems to creep up on me more frequently than so, which affects my ability to really notice my surroundings. I’m afraid to ‘play my last card’ if you know what I mean.
This post ‘woke me up’ sort of speak. It’s about staying in the ‘Now’ and surrendering to what’s happening ‘now’ in the world that will then change my life. I believe this can happen for anyone (that is, of course, if they let it . . . and for that to happen, presence has to be gained)
Thank you, Jackie.
I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! I’m also happy to hear that it “woke you up”, as you said. Life can definitely get in the way of noticing what else is going on, and it isn’t always easy to be fully awake and aware. I applaud your ability to recognize what perhaps has been happening for you and reflect on how you might look at things differently in the future! Keep me posted. :)
I think that is a simply incredible idea for a book. tt struck me what a confluence of blessings that book must have produces. How many people who had great cathartic moments sharing with you? How many great moments did you have connecting with people. I hope the book brings you great success.
Ill share a moment of mine if you care to read. A 5 mintue story….
I was in Big lots a couple years ago. Wasting time w/ my kids. The plan was to let them buy a little toy. Makes em happy. There are worse things a dad could do w/ his kids time, but probably better ways to spend time as well…
I was browsing the cheap artwork they usually have on the right side as you walk in when i saw a little sign that said this….
“How you spend your days is how you spend your life. ”
I laughed out loud. I didnt want a life lesson from big lots, I wanted a way to waste an hour. But there it was, challenging me to refute it. Glossy papper in a pulp frame, calling me out.
As Dirk Gently famously said “I dont always get where Im going, but I usually get where I need to be.”
Well that day I needed to be on the south side of big lots reading a message that many peopel had worked to put in front of me.
Think about how many people were involved in getting that 10$ piece of mass art on that shelf. It had probably been a south american tree 2 years ago.
Its still a work in progress, but that is a moment that changed my life.
I do plan to put this into a work of mine, so if you could keep it between us id appreciate it. But you shared w/ me, so i felt that it would be nice to share back.
Have a great wednesday [not trying to be bossy… :-) ]
Thanks for sharing your story! It’s amazing what you can learn in the most unexpected places! I wish you lots of luck with your future works.
“Let the world ignite something inside of you.”
I’m 17 and chasing my ambition to be a doctor (and then a surgeon). That one sentence of yours struck a chord with me.
I’m so glad it helped you in some way. Keep chasing all of your dreams and ambitions!
You brought up a good point, but I wish you had discussed the idea of balance. You want to be open and receptive and responsive to the world AND YET you don’t want to be like formless clay in the hands of the world.
Let the world provoke you, make you respond, but don’t let the world do whatever it wants to you.
It was a very thought-provoking post, thank you for it.
Reading your post invoked a real sense of urgency. It brought me to the memory of my Father, though being alive, I had sort of cut-off for a puerile reasons such as Facebook privacy issues. My roommate, and best friend lost his father just over 4 years ago. His girlfriend, lost hers just last year. I don’t know what I would do if I lost my father prematurely. But I am strengthened knowing I can “grow up” and put the past in the past, and re-connect while it still counts.
Thank you for sharing your post with the world. This project is suitably convicting, to say the least.
Thanks for your message. You are definitely right–the project is convicting. I hope the idea can inspire something positive in your with your father!
What a great post.
It’s made me think about the role our emotions play in getting us to take action. Actually, the word emotion and motivation come from the same latin word “movere”, which means to move.
Marshall Rosenberg talks about emotions being like the dashboard in our car. They tell us when a need of ours is or isn’t being met. As a result, we may decide to “move” and do something about it. We just need to listen to them.
Wow, what an insightful response. Thanks for sharing this! I love how both of those words come from “movere”, to move. Lovely! It’s so true–to move to action. Thanks again.
Wonderful, though provoking post. So very true that sometimes we don’t get to say what we truly wanted to say – the things in our heart that we stop ourselves for FEAR of looking silly or vulnerable.
I see “blah” on that – since my path of self discovery and my journey across America for the last 3 years, I now live in my truth – not afraid to say the things that I want to say – to RISK appearing the fool, or the one that loves too much.
Thank you for this wonderful post,
How true that a great deal of our fear about saying something is looking silly or vulnerable. It’s refreshing to hear that you don’t let that stop you! Hopefully others can learn by your example.
Great stuff feeling so glad to read that post.
I’m totally agree on everything on that article, but… it’s not so easy to find that spark (better if not included a death). I’m waiting soon almost 3 years not going on with my life. And somethimes it’s just enough to give up…