As I write, my daughter just got her grade two class assignment, at long last. It takes at least a week each year for local public schools to work things out, and so in the meantime the kids head to a temporary classroom. Now that things are worked out, the kids can finally settle in and get to know their new teachers.
Watching my daughter head off to a new school year with a new teacher has started me thinking about those people who make a difference in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I still remember all of my elementary school teachers, even 30 years later. They made an impression on me, and they taught me some very valuable lessons, academic and otherwise. At the time I didn’t even fully understand what I was learning from them. Now, with a few decades more experience under my belt, and watching my own daughter head off to school, my perspective has changed. I see all the little ways that they influenced me.
Teachers aren’t the only people who influence you and make a difference in your life. Family members, friends, co-workers, and sometimes even strangers can say or do things that help you look at the world differently, or give you a lift when you really need it. Even a smile can make a difference in the right situation. In The Power of the Thumbs Up I shared how two words from a woman on the street helped me when I was on a run that wasn’t going well. She’ll never know the impact she had, but I’m very grateful.
When you think about the people who have made a difference in your life, you may also think of people who have no idea of the impact they had. We don’t always take the time to tell people when they’ve done something positive for us, or to thank them for their help. It’s not even possible to thank everyone, for that matter. The result is that there’s a whole lot of good out there that goes unrecognized.
Given all the people who go unthanked for the good they do, there’s a good chance that you’ve had a positive impact on the life of someone else that you don’t know about. In fact, it’s almost certain. Just as other people have impacted you for good, you have undoubtedly done the same for other people. It may not have been obvious to you at the time, and it may not have been a person who you know well. But all those little interactions in our lives sometimes work out in positive ways.
If you take the time to consider the people who’ve inspired you or helped you, know that there are people out there who think the same of you. There are people whose lives are better because of something you did. That’s a pretty powerful thing.
When you’re trying to decide what you want to be when you grow up, and you’re venturing into uncharted territory, you may not feel very capable. By taking the time to think of the good you’ve done – both what you know about and what you don’t – you can remind yourself that you are a capable and deserving person. You are enough, just as you are. You can do some pretty amazing things. You don’t need to have all the answers, you just need to show up and make your art. Positive things will flow out of that, whether they’re always obvious to you or not.
Who are the people who have made a difference in your life? How many of them know the impact they had on you?