In his monumental TED talk, Benjamin Zanders tells the story of a woman who had survived Auschwitz.
She went to Auschwitz when she was 15 years old. She had an 8-year-old brother, and their parents were lost. On the train to Auschwitz, she looked down and saw that her brother’s shoes were missing. She said to him, ‘Why are you so stupid, can’t you keep your things together for goodness’ sake?’. The way an elder sister might speak to a little brother. Sadly, it was the last thing she ever said to him, because she never saw him again. He did not survive the camp.
The woman then made a vow – to never say anything to anybody that couldn’t stand as the last thing she would say to them.
What’s intriguing about this idea is that it applies just as well to strangers as it does for loved ones. In fact, with several strangers like a customer service agent on a waiter at a restaurant, what you say to them is often your last conversation. These one-time conversations can serve as means to practice and internalize our vow.
Our lives are fragile enough to not end any conversation in a manner that you would later regret. After all, you never know which conversation is the last one.