In science, a catalyst causes a reaction in other substances without being used up itself. In history, a catalyst is the precipitous event that causes other events to unfold.
Sometimes people we meet have a great impact on our lives. While we are changed in amazing and dramatic ways, their lives go on much as before we met them.
The impact can be positive. Perhaps the person was a teacher who inspired us to believe in ourselves. Perhaps it was a celebrity who had a dramatic weight loss. Perhaps it was an author whose words transformed our morals.
The impact could be negative, though. Perhaps a stranger spoke cruel words that led to rash decisions. Perhaps following a celebrity’s high life, we were led into alcohol and drug abuse. Perhaps bullying leads to suicidal depression.
In all cases, the person is blissfully ignorant of the results of his or her interaction with you. Will you tell him or her? Will you put an ad in the paper or post a poem on a wall to announce it? Will you write poetry? a novel? blog entries?
If you’re a writer, you probably will. Send the person a letter and let them know. Teachers love to get those letters, I know. Authors toiling with their typewriters are eager to distract themselves from their writer’s block with a return note to you. Everyone likes to be appreciated.
Now consider, if small throw-away encounters can change your life, how much more can years of encouragement and highly charged encounters influence you? How much can you influence others with loving attention and respectful interaction year after year?
The power behind change: for better or worse.