I heard someone once ask:
“Can you remember something mean and hurtful that was said to you over a decade ago?”
It turns out that most people can.
To which the response was:
“If you can say something hurtful, that still sits with people years and years later – it is also possible to do the opposite.”
Do you believe that?
It doesn’t matter if you do or not, I guess: It’s true.
I believe that with your words – and only your words – you can change someone’s life for the better in an instant.
How do you do it?
- Tell them that they matter.
- Tell them that they are perfect.
- Tell them that you are glad you got to be alive at the same time as them.
- Tell them that we could all be better, but that you love and cherish them exactly as they are.
We want someone to know us intimately, and accept us as we are. I believe that most of our actions have to do with seeking this affirmation.
And age does not matter in the least on this issue.
The young can encourage the old, and the old the young.
Soft words can change people’s hearts.
It is true that it is a powerful occurrence to have somebody look you in the eye and say you are worth something. I was reading an issue of Smithsonian magazine the other day and in it was an interview with the poet Maya Angelou. In the interview she talked about the time, as only an eight-year-old girl, that she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She spoke about having to heal from the crime, but also about how she told on the man, and how he had gone to prison and, shortly after being released, was beaten to death by men in the community. Angelou believes she was the one who caused the man’s death because she told about the rape. I was amazed to read that after the beating, the terrified young child didn’t speak for years. It was much later, during a walk with her mother, that she would find the source of her life of freedom, beauty, and creativity. Walking down a street near their home, Angelou said her mother stopped, turned, and spoke to her: “Baby,” she said, looking the young woman in the eye. “You know something? I think you are the greatest woman I have ever met. Yes. Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, my mother, and you—and you are the greatest.” Maya Angelou said in the interview that she boarded a streetcar with tears flowing down her cheeks, stared into the wood paneling of the car and thought to herself, Suppose I really am somebody?
It turns out, you are somebody too.
Who do you know that needs to be told that they are somebody?