Steven Jobs suggested that we all should embrace a goal to “make a dent in the universe.” There is no question he did. An inventor, creative designer, innovator, and marketing guru, Jobs succeeded in changing the computer industry, the digital movie industry, and the record or product end of the music industry.
What about the rest of us? Are we up to his challenge? Or does that seem too impossibly grandiose an ambition?
Perhaps we miss the point. In his powerful book, Turning Stones: My Days and Nights with Children at Risk, a Caseworker’s Story, Marc Parent concludes with the story of an elderly nun whose convent is sent on a sight-seeing trip to visit the Grand Canyon and a number of others of the best known tourist sites in our country. At every stop this one nun slips away from the awe-inspiring vistas for a few minutes, wandering apparently aimlessly, occasionally stooping to examine something on the ground. Finally, the driver, who has noted this behavior, can no longer restrain his curiosity and asks the nun why she does this. She asks him what he has noticed about her walks. He observes that she often picks up a rock and puts it back. She tells him that what he missed was that she turned over the stone before she returned it so that the place will be forever changed because of the one small difference she has made there.
There are many ways to “dent the universe.” Some of them are grand, writ large in 48 Point Bold, Steven Jobs’ style. Others are humble. Mere stones. But reminiscent of Eiseley’s Star Thrower, they matter to the starfish that makes it back to the ocean, or to the child that Parent saves.
The point, as I see it, is not whether others recognize the ‘ping,’ or the dimple, or the size of the hollow we make or leave in our passing. There are billions of stars in the universe, but only one you, one me, in this place, in our time. And though we may only pass through this life once, we can chose to live deliberately as Thoreau advised. We can leave something of ourselves behind in every place and in every person we meet. We choose. We can be the speck of sand that becomes a pearl in the life of a friend. Small to the eye of the world, even microscopic. Priceless, nonetheless.
My book may or may not be published. My dent in the universe may only be noted by those who love me. But anyone can turn a stone. All of us can make a difference.