In just a moment, the world can change. I wrote this on 9/11/16—the 15th anniversary of a moment that changed the past, present and future for all of us. For some reason, the blog was never posted, but it’s an important message from an important moment so I have updated it to share now, with 9/11 just around the corner.

At the time that I first wrote this, I had just read about a school bus that crashed into the Denver Airport, killing the driver and injuring many others…and about a balcony that had collapsed at a college party, injuring more than 30. It could easily have been one of my daughters at any one of the hundreds of college parties that turn dangerous each year. When we hear about tragic moments that change our worlds, we often tell ourselves to hug our family and say, “I love you,” for fear that a tragedy could strike at any time. Frighteningly, moments of tragedy have become even more common place in the past few months when some hate-filled person decides to use his/her car as a weapon of mass destruction and plow into a crowd.  So sad…so frightening.

But moments don’t always have to be about tragedy. In a single moment, the world can brighten as well.

Last September, I went to Quebec City, Canada, for the weekend. I had never been there before, but I had heard it was “like Europe, only closer.” More important, my 84-year-old mother didn’t get to go on the vacation she had hoped for that summer, so I suggested we go on a little getaway. And my sister-in-law—who never takes time for herself because she always focuses on her family first—also joined us. We had the best time—walking all over the city, climbing more than 300 steps along the Governor’s Promenade (my mom is one amazing 84-year-old), enjoying delicious meals, taking a boat ride on the river and, most important, just taking the time to love one another.

Frankly, that wasn’t the best time for me to take a trip. But then again, it’s never the best time to put obligations on hold and follow your heart. How many excuses do we all make for staying in our boxes rather than dreaming or loving? But by the time we returned home, we all had achieved physical feats that we never thought we could…we tasted the best crème brûlée and chocolate dessert in all of Quebec City (yes, sometimes I really do eat a little dessert)…and we had relished our moments of pure, simple love.

Taking time to create a positive effect doesn’t require three days—it truly can take a moment and still have a ripple effect that changes a day or a life just as those tragic moments do. Did you ever hear this quote? One minute of anger weakens your immune system for four to five hours. One minute of laughter boosts your immune system for 24 hours. What an amazing thing if just one minute of laughter can boost your immune system.

Peyton Manning, arguably one of the best football players of all time, knows the power of taking a moment for love. He sends letters of acknowledgment and appreciation to team members and competitors alike, letting them know that their efforts were noticed. Five minutes to write a note, yet an indelible impression that lasts a lifetime.

Years ago, a friend of mine was complaining about her husband and her unhappy marriage. I had watched her repeatedly nag her husband, so I asked if she ever took a moment to thank her husband for all that he does for her. After she finished making excuses, she finally acknowledged that no, she didn’t directly and specifically thank him for the things he does, be it major projects or simply remembering to buy more coffee because he had used the last of it that morning. Don’t we all feel better when someone says thank you? When we are noticed for the care that we take to help someone else? My friend’s husband did. Fast-forward to the present…my friend is still married—quite happily—and I haven’t heard a complaint in years.

Last week, my husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Sure there have been easier and harder times over the years, but overall, we have an amazingly happy marriage. Besides acknowledging that my husband is a “great guy” who tolerates me, I also know that one of the keys to our happiness is that we both take moments each day to look at each other and say helloI love you…and thank you.

We have all become very adept at posting inspirational sayings on Facebook. But rather than spending time posting on Facebook, what could you do to be inspirational? Tell me the story of the life you changed because you stepped away from the computer and looked into someone’s eyes and told him or her that he did a good job or that you appreciated her. Rather than write a check to donate to the class fund, work on an art project with the class and see the smiles on the kids’ faces.

As I look around at all the parents glued to their screens while their children are glued to their own screens, I see moments wasted. Play a game with a child. Read him or her a book. Try a new recipe. Go to a new restaurant. To this day, I still play games and color with my 20-year-old daughter. It calms us both down, and in the quiet, we talk and we share.

It seems that the world is drowning in misery and finger-pointing. I suggest you turn off the news and the reality-TV shows, and take a moment to brighten a world…to smile…to call a friend…to thank your spouse…to acknowledge a job well-done…and to watch the world change.

It’s easy to complain. It’s just as easy to make a difference. They both take just a moment.

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