Use your WORDS

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we interact with others, and the impact we have on the world around us. In the social services field, I don’t always get a lot of chance to see the impact I’ve had on those around me. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I see some big changes, but more often than not, I’m only doing the seed planting, maybe a little watering, and then sending my little buds off to bloom elsewhere, I hope. If I’m very lucky, one of my little flowers is able to tell me how I’ve impacted them. Of course, this isn’t why I do what I do. If I was in it for the glory, I would have picked a different field.

Like writing.

Ha! Gotcha. If anything, there is much less outside validation for writing. It’s easier to get discouraged, and you seriously have to do it for the love of writing, not for the glory. Rejections and harsh critiques and reviews can overshadow any praise. I attended a conference the past couple days, and one of the presenters talked about how we, as humans, have a negative bias, a tendency to let the negative responses outweigh the positive, even if there are more positives in reality.

Let’s go on a slight bunny trail, shall we? Hop this way…

Several weeks ago, I got a message from the seven-year-old daughter of a friend of mine. It was probably one of the most adorable things ever, and I can’t explain it better than to just give you the screenshots of our interactions.

photo 1

photo 2 photo 3

photo 4

Doesn’t that just touch your heart like a flock of butterflies floating on a rainbow? (The kissing chickens part was in response to another friend who commented about kissing her chickens. Addi gives very good advice.)

What I realized after this interaction was that even though my book isn’t out yet, even though Addi won’t be able to read my book for many years after it comes out, I’m already able to have an impact simply by doing what I do, by being who I am.

A few weeks after that, I was visiting Sioux Falls, SD, and my old stomping grounds at Augustana College. My friend and I wandered around campus and through the buildings, and we walked past the office of my creative writing professor. I only took one class from him, over 9 years ago, but it was my first exposure to the publishing process, and the first time I thought, hey, maybe someday that’s something I could do. Even at that time, I didn’t know what an impact the class had on me, so of course the professor had no idea either.

So I emailed him. I also emailed my favorite supervisor/professor from grad school, the man who did the majority of my training to become a therapist, since I’m reaching new milestones in that career as well.

The emails I got back from both professors brought me to tears. So excited, so glad to hear how I was doing. I knew my grad school professor would remember me, as we’ve corresponded periodically throughout the years, but I was sure my creative writing professor would have no recollection of me. I mean, one class, come on! But not only did he remember me, he remembered many of the people who were in that particular class! Talk about a great memory. I was also told by a friend who is Facebook friends with him that he posted about it and that it totally made his day to get that email.

A small gesture, ten minutes out of my day to let someone know how drastically they impacted my life, and the effect was amazing. They were happy, I was even happier, and they got to see the fruits of those seeds they planted years ago. I really want to look up my third grade teacher now, the one who submitted my first story to the State of Iowa writing contest, which set me on the writing path. I’d love to see how she’s doing, and show her how that small gesture impacted me.

So here’s my point. When someone does something that impacts you, or that you appreciate, TELL THEM. Big or small. Maybe they saved you a seat, or maybe they saved your life. Make sure you let them know. I think we all, at times, just sort of wander around this big ol’ world, feeling alone, like nothing we do matters.

How might a smile change someone’s day? A kind word? A thank you?

It takes very little effort to show gratitude, to share a kind word, but the rewards for everyone involved are limitless. It’s my goal to be very cognizant of the things people do, and to recognize them for that, whether it directly impacts me or not. Build someone up today.

All it takes is a few words.

Is there a time when someone unexpectedly pointed out something positive you’d done?

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