Source Code: Does What You Do Matter?

Source CodeBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Do you ever wonder how many people could have made a difference in the world, could have changed things for the better, but didn’t…because they stopped believing they could?

In Source Code, Army helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up as Sean, a history teacher on a commuter train. Eight minutes later a bomb on the train explodes, killing everyone.

Colter wakes up again, this time in a strange capsule. He finds out that he’s part of an experimental crime fighting program known as source code. A complex computer program writes a code from the last eight minutes of a person’s life and allows Colter to re-live them in order to find the bad guy.

Colter goes back again and again into the last eight minutes of Sean’s life, and falls in love with Sean’s friend Christina, also killed in the explosion. He starts to think if he can just stop the bomb from exploding and catch the bomber, he can save Christina.

The source code creator tells him he can’t change the past. Christina and all the others on the train are already dead.

Though Colter manages to identify the bomber, in the process he’s found out the truth—he was killed in Afghanistan. All that remains of him is, essentially, his brain hooked up to a computer. He can never have a normal life again. He can either continue to live through the last eight minutes of other people’s lives or he can insist they disconnect him from the computer and allow what remains of him to die.

The problem is Colter can’t accept he can’t first save Christina. He asks his handler to violate orders and send him back in one last time and then to disconnect his brain from the computer at the exact moment the eight minutes end. Even if he can’t really save Christina, he wants his last memories, his final moments, to be spent trying.

His handler takes pity on him and agrees, even though source code’s creator wants to simply wipe Colter’s memory and keep using his brain against Colter’s wishes.

Colter goes back into Sean’s final minutes. He’s learned from his mistakes. This time he disables both the bomb’s main detonator and its back-up detonator. He catches the bomber, handcuffs him, and calls the police to tell them exactly where he is and what he planned to do.

Then he asks Christina, “If you knew you only had one minute left to live, how would you spend it?”

He kisses her.

And expects that to be his last moment.

But the moment when the memory should have ended passes. Colter can barely believe it, but he walks off the commuter train with Christina. He sends his handler a text…

“At some point today, you’re going to hear about a failed terrorist attack on a commuter train near Chicago. You and I kept that bomb from going off. If you’re reading this email, then Source Code works even better than you imagined.”

Against all odds, Colter made a difference because he refused to give up and refused to stop believing he could.

The refusal to stop believing is a quality shared by all the people who’ve changed the world. (Click to tweet.)

Some of them were leaders like Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King.

Some of them were normal people like Rosa Parks who simply did the right thing and believed it would make a difference.

Some of them didn’t change the world, but they did change the world for someone. Colter didn’t save the world, but he did do something amazing for every person on that train.

None of that would have happened if they’d stopped believing what they did mattered.

Never stop believing you can make a difference.

Do you ever feel insignificant and wonder if what you do matters?

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