The marching band director during my freshman year at West Virginia University was an amazing, wise man. At the end of a band camp day or a rehearsal, he sometimes told us stories about marching band members who were unique or inspiring. I remember him talking about a girl who had cancer, whose time in the band meant so much to her in the last months of her life. He told us about a completely blind clarinet player who marched rather than standing on the sidelines. She not only memorized her music but also her position on the field based on stepping precisely the same distance from one picture to the next. When she skipped a picture in one of these drills during halftime, she realized that she had messed up and actually stood at the end of the field by herself, counting and playing until the rest of the band hit that picture, and then she continued through the rest of the show as if that’s how it was charted. The band received compliments about how unique it was to have a solo clarinetist call to the band, drawing them down the field to her during the drill. The trick worked.
Even if we didn’t get an inspiring story, he would still gather us to talk about the drill and plans for the following rehearsal. On certain evenings, he would also encourage us to look at the sunset. Even with all we had to accomplish during our practices, he knew it was important to appreciate the natural beauty around us.
Every time he took the band anywhere, he would ask us to clean up after ourselves and pick up any other trash we saw laying around. He always said, “Leave this place better than you found it.” As a writer, I found that to be deep.
I still think about that statement a lot. I attached it to my role on this planet. As someone who feels compassion for nearly any plight, I have always wondered how I could impact people when I don’t have the platform, the funding, the connections, the tools, or whatever to truly solve big issues.
Recently, though, I’ve been trying to think smaller, to look at the picture one pixel at a time. Small acts add up to big impact, so what can I offer to leave this place better?
Then I realized that I have my magical books, helping with charities through my work with Inspiring Lives and my association with Dr. Shellie Hipsky, and love. Everyone needs more magic, friendship, sisterhood, and love. Even my little drops of betterment add to others’, washing over our world with hope, change, and empowerment.
So the next time you feel small, like you can’t make a difference, think about how you can leave this place better than you found it. Chances are, even pointing out the beauty of a sunset, telling an inspiring story, or saying something you believe deep in your heart is all you need to do.