What happens if I told you that, during the space of time it takes for me to complete this speech, 735 people will have died worldwide. 735. That’s close to 30 times the amount of everybody in this classroom.
For some of you, that might be a fairly startling figure, for others, perhaps that’s not the case but irrespective of that, I’d like to think that every one of you will hold some feelings of disconsolation in response to the sheer misfortune and unhappiness that hundreds of thousands of people face every day.
735. That’s 735 families who will be immensely affected by the loss of a loved one.
Again, you might be heartbroken, traumatised, completely overwhelmed but for me, it’s a slightly different picture. For me, the only feelings that come to mind are ones of guilt, remorse and even repentance.
Allow me to elaborate.
In 70, 80, perhaps 90 years time, when you will be lying on your death bed, you won’t be worrying about how much money, how much power or how much prestige you had on Earth. In fact, you are going to see that all of this was simply just a twisted illusion. If you take a look at the bigger picture, you will come to the realisation that the so-called ‘paramount’ things you prioritised in your life, perhaps vanity, wealth, revenge will be completely insignificant. Why throw your life away like that, wasting it on inconsequential acts? The one thing that will matter, however, is the impact you had on the lives of others. The impact you could have had on the lives of 735 others.
As human beings, it’s natural for us to act in the spur of the moment and often, we forget to step back and question our reasoning for doing certain things. We commonly behave in an inconsiderate manner and have irrational justifications for our actions and this can negatively impact ourselves as well as others.
So, back to your death bed but this time, at your funeral. You see, no one is going to talk about how much money, how much power or how much prestige *name* had on Earth. They’re going to talk about how *name* was, how *name* lived and how *name* loved.
Of course, money, power, prestige, they’re all relatively important things in life. But what I think is more important is knowing that you haven’t walked this planet in vain; it’s knowing that you’ve helped, encouraged and supported people to the greatest of your ability. It might be ambitious to have the goal of enriching as many as 735 lives at once but even small acts of kindness such as smiling at a stranger in the street can evoke feelings of positivity.
Now, for the final time we return back to your death bed. The sole difference is that, this time, your corpse has rotted away and now, the only thing that you will be remembered by is by what will be left of you- what was in your heart.
Now, for the final time we return back to your death bed. The sole difference is that, this time, your corpse has rotted away and now,
Growing up in a family where my parents, grandparents and great grandparents have all been doctors, it’s been truly inspiring to see the impact they, along with teachers, nurses, soldiers and the emergency services, have had on the lives of others. In fact, to put it into perspective, Britain’s firefighters alone have rescued over 38,000 people in the last year.
Have any of you completely dismissed a homeless person in the street, knowing that they’re in dire need of some food or water but you avoid making an effort to help them? I’m sure we’re all guilty of doing that. Recently, I came across the inspiring story of Jorge Munoz, an American man who initially asked a small group of homeless men if they were hungry. Following their response, he decided to cook warm meals for them every night out of pure selflessness. Now, every evening, Jorge, prepares meals for up to as many as 140 people. Even after finding himself unemployed for a month, he continues with his passion in spite of the fact that he ends up spending half of his $650 a week salary on food for others.
Maybe now those feelings of guilt, remorse and repentance are slightly more clear to you. They’re all emotions that I feel due to the fact that I haven’t seized those opportunities and been able to make a huge difference to the lives of others in such a remarkable way. But why? At the moment, I feel that my age and experiences are obstacles. But I’ve come to the realisation that even the smallest of gestures can benefit someone significantly.
Perhaps one day my future self won’t be filled with shame every time an unsettling statistic appears on the news. Perhaps one day every single one of us will have impacted this world in order to make it a better place. And perhaps one day, collectively, we will have had a positive effect on 735 people and their 735 families and it’s possible that their sentiments of grief won’t be as prominent because of you and the way in which you have treated them and instead of feeling heartbroken, traumatised, completely overwhelmed when you’re made aware of their death, you feel relieved, satisfied and even uplifted because you know that you had made a difference.