I want to end by sharing the most important lesson I’ve learned. I think it’s going to surprise you. In a lot of these talks, and including the stories I’ve given, we talk about people that started with these little things, and they all became these grand endeavors, but I actually think the little things are the ends in themselves. And I think that what is important is that no matter where it ends up, if you do something meaningful, it will matter. I know how busy you are as students, and I know how right now and most times, you feel pulled in a million directions, but you will never be less busy than you are today, I promise you. You will have jobs, you’ll have families, you will have pets, houses, and cars, and so many things that will be pulling you in a million more directions.
So whatever you’re going to do, big or small, it needs to be today. You know that best friend I told you about in Human Resources? Many years ago, when I was working at Covenant House Shelter, he came to see some of the work I was doing. He was so inspired I could work with street youth, and by the work that the shelter does, but he said it just wasn’t him; he didn’t know if he’d feel comfortable, or if he’d say the wrong thing, it just didn’t seem like his environment. But soon enough, he came more and more, and about once a month, he started running a class for the youth. He taught them how to write resumes, he taught them how to interview, he taught them how to get jobs in the city. He used his skills in human resources to help in that situation.
And years after I left Covenant House, he was still working there. It’s now ten years later, and my friend helps people in organizations all over Toronto: new immigrants, elderly people, people with very little means to write better resumes, to interview better so that they can work to feed their families. He didn’t leave his full-time job, it’s just something he does every once in a while when he has time.
When I started working for the UN, I had these big visions. I thought I’d be in a plane dropping packages of food onto people who needed or at some big, amazing negotiating table as the lead ambassador, but I don’t think that my future is at the UN. Turns out my mom got sick, and my dad got much older, and all of a sudden, I find myself wanting kids and a family, and wanting to have roots for the first time. I see my future in Toronto today. I know that, even if I don’t end up at the UN, I will find some small way to make a contribution to my community. It may not make it on the front page of the paper, but I promise you that it’ll matter.
Let me ask you this: if I could give you all half an hour more this week, but I said to you that you have to use that half an hour to help somebody else or to help something you’re passionate about – the environment or animals – if I told you you could use it to write a letter to your grandma, to help somebody struggling in school, to teach a kid in your neighborhood how to play basketball, what would you do? What would you do if I told you that you could never put it on your resume and you could never tell anybody else that you did it? What would you do that has meaning to you?
I challenge you to do that this week. Actually, I challenge you to do it today. And I promise you that if you do, that step will make the difference. In fact, it was Mother Teresa who said, “Do not try to do great things. Just do small things with great love.” Thank you.