Small interactions, big impact


By Katherine Emmanuel, Co-Multimedia Editor

Sometimes the people who have the least time in our lives are the ones who have the most influence on us. Fleeting interactions with these people — from classmates at school to teammates at sporting events — have a lasting impact on our values, personalities and worldviews. These people can be referred to as “passing people,” and although their time in our lives may be brief, their significance should not be underestimated.

Some of the most significant benefits that passing people offer are opportunities for learning and growth. In a classroom setting, peers or even teachers challenge our previously held beliefs and offer unique perspectives on a vast range of topics. In my AP U.S. History class last year, we had many opportunities to engage in classroom debates. One particular experience that I still remember was the debate over the impact of the New Deal on American society. I always thought of the New Deal as a necessary response to the Great Depression, but as I listened to my classmates argue against it, I began to question my assumptions.

They brought up valid points about the role of government in individual liberty and the unintended consequences of government intervention. It was a challenge to hear opposing views, but ultimately, it allowed me to expand my understanding of the issue and consider different perspectives. Such moments of exchange can broaden our understanding of the world and enrich our lives.

Passing people can also help us build a sense of community, even with those we seem to share few similarities with. With the grasp that social media has on our generation, it is common to feel a sense of isolation from others as we live much of our lives online. NPR reports that people who spend the most time on social media — more than two hours a day — had twice the odds of perceived social isolation than those who said they spent a half hour per day or less on those sites. Putting down our screens and interacting with passing people can serve as a reminder that we are all connected in some way or another.

Five years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a wise, elderly woman during a plane ride who shared her life experiences and stories about the wonders of technology and the many unexpected technological advancements she witnessed in her lifetime. Despite this brief encounter, her insights and advice stay with me to this day.

As we go through life, we often focus on the people who stay with us for a long time — our parents, siblings, close friends and others. While these people have tremendous impacts in our lives, they are often the ones who affirm our previously held notions. What we often forget is how little moments here and there with those who are only in our lives for short chapters can inspire us to think differently and adapt new perspectives.

Recognizing the importance of passing people in our lives is not only beneficial for our personal growth but can also help us build a stronger sense of community. When we acknowledge the impact that others have on us, even if it was just for a brief moment, we can foster a sense of connection that ripples far beyond its initial impact.

Katherine Emmanuel can be reached at [email protected].