Mark Green • Affecting Others

Mark Green
Mark Green

When I was in Kosovo, I met up with a staff sergeant from the unit we were relieving. A part of that changeover involved getting familiarized with the area we were in, local customs, etc. This particular soldier was of noted benefit to us during this informational phase of our journey as he was from Kosovo.

            He shared the story of being a child through the horrors that fell upon his country in the nineties and seeing the United States military rolling into his village in heroic fashion. The impact those soldiers and Marines left on him were enough to drive him to join the U.S. Army in hopes of helping others in the same way they had helped him. That his unit would end up on rotation to his home country, where he could visit his parents, show them how far he’d come and support their community, is a success story that Hollywood couldn’t write.

            That experience has stayed with me ever since. I think about how a person’s actions can have such an effect on someone else’s future. What if he had reached out for help and the soldiers he was looking up to had overlooked him or been distant with their efforts? Could the changing of one smile into a frown be enough to derail this man’s decision to dedicate his life to service to others?

            How do we affect the world around us? How do we allow the world around us to affect our lives? If a cashier has a bad attitude, do we take it personal and say they need to be more professional, or do we offer up a smile and hope their day gets better? We can walk away and not give the interaction a second thought, or we can be the reason someone’s day changed for the better.

            There’s a great scene in the movie Peaceful Warrior where Nick Nolte’s character is sharing some wisdom with Scott Mechlowicz in a park. Nick is telling Scott that he isn’t focusing; that he’s missing the world around him. Scott shakes his head and states that there’s nothing happening. Nick grabs him and forces him to become hyperaware of his surroundings until Scott begins to notice a man playing Frisbee with his dog, a couple locked in a passionate kiss, a ladybug climbing up a blade of grass. As Scott pulls away in disbelief, Nick looks at him with a smile and says, “There’s never nothing going on.”

            There really isn’t nothing going on. We’re a part of that. Everything we do can have a positive affect (or a negative one) on the world around us. Now, that’s not to say every time you smile at someone, they’re running off to join the Special Forces, but don’t discredit your ability to have a positive effect on someone’s life. There are clips on Facebook of people talking about something nice someone did for them in a drive-thru that is still on their minds months after it happened. People remember the little things that we do in their lives.

             For me, I think about the places that I’ve been and who I was while I was there. I try to leave places and people better than how I find them, but that wasn’t always the case. I was much younger and less travelled on my first deployment, and I didn’t always represent myself or the uniform I wore in the best manner possible. I regret those moments, as I think about the missed opportunities to shift someone’s mood, someone’s day, or even someone’s life for the better. Today, I still don’t always get it right, but I try to be more mindful about the interactions I have with people, because I know that even a smile can be impactful.

            I’m not trying to persuade anyone to do anything nice with the promise of a return for their investment. In all likelihood, we’ll never see the results of the choices we make at these intersections in life; not in the short term, at least. But I do believe that we’re in a position to see the betterment of the world we live in, and the lives of those around us, if we choose to uplift those who are down and love those who are in need. There’s no greater effect on society than when society affects the change it wants to see.