A Not so Big, Small World

Until recently, the expression “it’s a small world” had always confused me, simply because this “small world” contains seven billion people, each with a completely unique life. Just think—there are seven billion people, and each person is experiencing each passing second differently: seeing and smelling, tasting and hearing and feeling seven billion different things. How could one ever classify all of that as “small”?

I had been content with the idea that my life is all I can experience, that I will never be exposed to our world’s entirety simply because there is too much of it for one lifetime. In one way, this is true. I will not meet all seven billion of you during my life, regardless of my efforts to do so. I will not be able to see every inch of this world, or taste every traditional dish (though I’ll try hard to do that too), or experience all the different cultures and lifestyles seven billion of us have embraced. My failure won’t be from lack of determination; this world is just too big for one individual. But it may still be small enough yet to be explored by a single action.

As I was walking out of a café the other day, I passed through a family trying to take a picture and offered to take the picture for them, if anything to ease the camera’s duty of fitting eleven struggling people in one shot. A minute later I was in the car heading home, completely oblivious of what had just happened: the connection that had been created, the concept that I had just become a part of their story. The picture of this family that will end up in a frame on a nightstand, or in a suitcase, as a grandparent’s Christmas gift—whatever will become of it, I am a part of now, all because I pressed a camera button. It’s not likely that we will cross paths again, or that either of us would recognize one another if we did, but that’s not the point. The connection will always be there.

This led me to the idea that we are all connected in one way or another, voluntarily or not. Each one of us is influencing the lives around us regardless of what we are doing, and the same influences are apparent in our own lives, whether it’s the hearty conversation you hear between a bus driver and local resident on the way to school, your act of holding the door open for the girl with a depressingly empty coffee cup and too many books for an empty hand, or even the short greeting you give or receive from the student at the front desk of your residence hall. All of these tiny observations and acts, most of which we don’t give a second thought, have all created this elaborate web of connections between all of us.

I think a lot of us tend to envision ourselves as just faces others pass by, but even the one face that expresses that quick, friendly smile to me as I’m walking to class has an impact, whether I acknowledge it or not. And these miniscule encounters are constantly influencing seven billion lives, every minute of every day. So don’t neglect the littler actions in life, because they create the beautiful connection between all seven billion of us: in the end, it’s the little things that makes this big world small.

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