My week at the Belfast TradFest culminated in a cathedral.
Everyone who has been taking classes during the week made their way to Belfast cathedral for a communal finish. Every class played a short piece to round out their week of workshops.
The whole experience was quite lovely. At one point, I was unexepectedly moved to tears by the performance of the cello class (not a common instrument in Irish traditional music).
When I got home, I decided to send a message to Neil Martin who taught that class. It was just a quick line or two to tell him how special it was.
He responded, saying he found the whole experience of the closing concert very moving and powerful.
I was glad I sent that note of thanks.
Then, a day later, I received my own note of thanks. It wasn’t music-related. Someone I had met and chatted with at a conference last year told me that they had just watched the video of my talk, The State Of The Web. They were very moved by it. Then they took the time to send me an email to tell me. As you can imagine, I was really touched to be on the receiving end of that.
I resolved that I would do it more myself. Whether it’s a piece of music, writing, or anything else, I’m going to try to remember to pass on my appreciation more often.
That’s a good place to end, isn’t it? A nice heart-warming reminder that small acts of thoughtfulness can make a big difference to someone else’s well-being.
But there’s a corollary to that lesson. Acts of thoughtlessness will almost certainly make a very big difference to someone else’s well-being.
This is something I know in theory but struggle with in practice. I’ve experienced the regret of wishing I hadn’t acted so stupidly in my dealings with work colleagues, for example.
There’ll be some discussion happening on a topic that I might have strong feelings about, and I let those strong feelings take over my behaviour. Quite frankly, I act like a dickhead.
Sure, I can analyse it in hindsight and identify what causes this unintended behaviour, but that sounds an awful lot like excusing it. In the end, it doesn’t matter what my intentions were or what the circumstances were. It’s my actions that matter. More specifically, it’s the effect of my actions on other people that matter.
So, yeah, I am going to try to do more of those small thoughtful acts, like sending thank-you messages to people. But frankly, that’s a stretch goal. The shamefully low bar I first have to pass is to simply treat people with the respect they deserve. To paraphrase the Hypocratic oath: first, don’t be an asshole.
There’s an oft-quoted adage:
They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
This is usually applied in the inspirational, positive sense: get out there and make people feel good! But it works equally well as a warning.