Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What good does encouragement do?

"Do whatever you have to do to keep making art.”
      -  Neil Gaiman
What good does it do?  Plenty.  I don’t believe in coincidence, and events of the past week have proven that to me.  Last week I was lamenting that I hadn't done anything big and meaningful with my life.    Three people reminded me how wrong I was.

The first was my son.  We were talking about his HS graduation this week, and his plans.  He was accepted into some of the best Universities our system has to offer and he is looking forward to the engineering program at one of them here in California.  I told him how proud I was of his hard work and he immediately shot back, “I couldn’t have done any of it without you, Dad.” 
That gave me pause.   What the heck was he talking about?  And then I remembered how I never rode him about grades or performance, but instead had constant conversations about how his academic struggles were determining his life potential not mine.  I always made sure he knew he was working for himself  I always encouraged and praised good work.

A few days later a note popped up for me on social media.   You are the person who helped me realize I was smart enough to go to college and to get whatever degree I set my heart to get (without that I wouldn't have my Masters and other post-grad certs).”  This was from a smart young woman who used to babysit my kids when they were little.  She was seriously talented, but just couldn’t see it.   All I did was point that out, and encourage her to challenge herself.

And finally, a text today thanking me.  An old friend was telling me how successful he has become at his photography.  I had forgotten a few years ago he was going through hard times.  Bad economy, bitter divorce, the kind of nasty you hear about and cringe.  I forgot that I encouraged him to chase his dream, not because I was trying to prop him up but because he was so talented.   He reminded me that those simple words helped change his life.

It's hard to admit, but these three wonderful individuals made me feel foolish.   I'm certainly not Bill Gates and I won't eradicate malaria.  Nobody is naming a university building after me.  But I have made a difference, that much is clear to me now.  You don't have to leave huge footprints to make the world a batter place.

So encourage someone, in some way, today.  You never know how big that seed will grow.