Every January when we return from winter break, I show my kids at school a TED Talk about what the speaker calls “lollipop moments”—those time when our kindness makes someone else’s life fundamentally better, but we don’t even know we’ve made a difference. It’s that time of year when we all resolve to be a little nicer, a little more loving, and the students nine-week project is to create and carry out a campaign to promote some character trait they feel our world is lacking: confidence, selflessness, independence. So it fits like a charm. Drew Dudley is a motivational speaker whose focus is ostensibly leadership—but really is about so much more.
Dudley’s vitae is chockablock with accomplishments: he has coordinated one of the largest leadership development programs in Canada, founded charities, and advised multinational companies. But it’s encouraging others to recognize those lollipop moments that might be his most profound achievement. Seems that years ago he met a nervous college freshman during orientation, talked her up a bit, lightened the moment, handed her a lollipop, and went on his way. No biggie. Except it was—at least to that coed. She had all but decided she didn’t belong in university, that she would drop out before she even began. But she didn’t. Because Dudley reached out and touched her (he would say he led with love), fundamentally changing her life without even knowing it. It’s a message that teenagers, who often feel so powerless, need to hear.
But as I get older, I sometimes wonder about how I’ve made a difference and what I’ll leave behind. For most of my life I’ve been too busy—three kids, single parenthood, non-traditional college student, later-in-life career—to worry about anything quite so philosophical. And besides, I’ve always had plenty of time ahead of me. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have plenty of years left, but (and no one can argue with me here), I have decidedly fewer than before. I haven’t written a symphony or the great American novel, nor have I legislated or discovered or endowed. And I think it’s pretty safe to say I never will.
But one thing I can do is to brush up against another soul else every day and touch them in some small way—even if only to smile or meet their eye with love. Lollipop moments, Drew Dudley would say. I can, with a full and open heart, offer up small acts kindness.
You can, too.