We Have No Idea What We Mean to Others
A Reminder for the days that we REALLY need them
I’m going to share something that we all need to be reminded of, inspired by my nephew.
Apparently there was some sort of program where elementary teachers picked some former students that are now in high school and share with them what made them special. I may be getting the premise wrong but it’s not the important part.
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One of my nephew’s old teachers from 6th grade picked him and sent him a really nice note (he’s now in 10th…Christ!)
He reflected on how hard my nephew worked, and especially how kind he was to others. Shared an example of how specifically my nephew would go out of his way to help this teacher out during a time where he was going through some physical struggles.
(Yeah, being vague but the details aren’t really mine to share, but the general point is super important. Bear with me here.)
Receiving this meant so, so much to my nephew. A very quiet kid, but he’s incredibly creative and bright, his mind of his is always spinning with ideas. He’s also such a sweet, kind soul for whom doing what he can to help comes naturally.
I can think of many examples of this, one in particular comes from when he used to play soccer and I was there for one of his practices. They were running laps and one of the kids on his team, who struggled physically with keeping up, was lagging behind. My nephew dropped back and ran the laps with the other kid at his pace. It still makes my heart warm with pride to remember this.
As proud beyond measure that I am of this kid, I also worry that his light may blow out like so many others. With this world being what it is, where being as big an asshole as possible seems to be the life goal (and the quickest way to attention and success) for too many, and those who resist get steamrolled.
I worry because in so many ways this kid is a spitting image of young me. If I’m being real, my light’s gone out more often than not because so often the lesson offered is, “what’s the point, nobody gives a shit.” I feel myself struggling with it now, and I suspect it’s at the core or why my health has been what it is the last year. Everything is connected.
I don’t want him to get caught in the mud like his uncle does, and yet I know I’m powerless to do anything about it. I know people will hurt him, let him down, take advantage of his kindness. The idea infuriates me to the point where I want to destroy anyone and anything that even has an inkling of intent to hurt this kid. Which is probably not very helpful, is it?
I just know how dark it can get out here and I so desperately want to protect him from the dark shit that is out there, and I know I cannot. Not only that, but what does that model to him? That just encourages what I fear, despite intentions.
So instead, I do my best to try to be of support and to help guide the best I can with what I have to work with, even if it feels like my tools are rusty screwdrivers some days.
I shared with him one thing I do for myself, that I’ll also share with you. I encouraged him to save this note and put it in a special place. One where it doesn’t get eaten by a dog or get lost in other things, yet a spot where he knows he can access it quickly. To collect anything and everything he ever receives like this. Most importantly, on those days where he’s feeling really unseen and depressed and everything sucks, to go back and reread them, to remind himself of who he really is and why it does matter.
I’ve been doing this for a few years now, collecting every note I receive. Taking a screen shot of every message, email, comment where someone shares how I’ve made an impact on their lives. I have a little folder on my laptop and when things get really dark I tap back into it.
I’ve avoided sharing this because to some it may appear egoistic. Maybe it is in some way, but the truth it I don’t give a shit. I do this for those days where it’s really dark, where I create another offer that nobody wants, or I write another piece that I pour my soul into that nobody reads, or whatever else is happening. When I feel disconnected, unseen, and it’s me against the world, I can read through them and be reminded that these dark moments are only speed bumps with potential lessons. In the big picture I am helping make this world a better place for others, that it DOES matter who I am and what I do. These serve as my receipts. Receipts are so important for a critical inner voice that requires overwhelming evidence in order for it to just shut the hell up for a little bit.
Mostly because humanity generally sucks at communicating feelings in any healthy way, we have absolutely no idea the impact we each can and have made on others. We will never know what impact little pieces of kindness we share with others, from our loved ones to complete strangers, can have, what we are really shifting.
You might have smiled at someone, or given a passing compliment, and it might have been the thing that convinced them to stay here at least a little longer. It saved their life and you forgot about it 5 minutes later. You go through life and you will have no friggin’ clue.
Seriously, I wish there was a way that people could see some sort of video montage of the moments where they did something to better someone else’s life just by a simple gestures. It would save lives, and there would certainly be a lot less assholes roaming the earth because they learned kindness mattered before it was too late.
That was the point I made with him, and the one I share with you (and remind myself). We will never know all the good we’ve created here, so when we hear about it, we need to savor it, treasure it. Save it for those days where you feel like you don’t matter. Because that’s bullshit.
My nephew had no idea what sort of impact he made on a teacher that as far as he knew forgot that he existed. My nephew probably never thought much about it either these years, because often we don’t; it is just what we do. That reminder meant everything to him.
I hope everyone seeing this, whether it’s 6 or 60,000 people, receive reminders about just how damn important your kindness really is to others, despite how little we ever know about it. When we do learn, hold on to those reminders to revisit on the stormy days.
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