There’s a man in Azerbaijan whose job it is to stand out on the sidewalk in a busy intersection and direct cars that are trying to park. When I played in Baku I saw him every day as we stopped by in the van to pick up my teammates on the way to practice. I don’t know his name or his story. I don’t even know if he ever saw me, sitting in the second seat and looking out the window, headphones in my ears. But I know that every single day that we pulled up to the sidewalk—in the rain, in the biting cold, on the one day that it snowed—there was a man there with a smile on his face and a cheerful greeting for our driver.
And I know that there’s a middle-aged woman working as a cashier at a grocery store in Poland with light purple streaks in her blond hair who will help you count out your change. I know there’s a waitress in a little town in the mountains of Switzerland who might be persuaded to give you the leftover desserts if you hint at it every once in a while. I know there’s a Turkish man in the French Riviera who makes a kebab that tastes like it’s straight from Istanbul. I know there’s a man who makes noodles at a hotel in China who will make them with just a hint of spice for those who can’t handle the full ladle of red pepper sauce that the native population uses.
I think about those people sometimes. I wonder if they’re still there and if they ever noticed that I’m not. Did they realize at some point that the American girl who used to come by stopped coming? Probably not. We weren’t friends. We didn’t speak the same languages. I couldn’t ask them about their lives or their families. But each of them still made a positive impact on my life, fleeting as our interactions may have been.
The thing is, we’re all constantly passing through somebody’s life. Those people make me think about the impact I have on each person I see…and on the ones I don’t. It’s admirable to be good to your friends and your family and even your coworkers. But I think an even greater goal is to live your life in such a way that any person passing through it, however peripherally, is impacted for the better. And maybe all that means sometimes is doing your job with a smile on your face, even on a rainy day.