Have you had the benefit of someone in your past who really made a positive impression on you? Someone perhaps who you admired because of how they went about their life, the actions they took, the things they believed in? And furthermore is it possible that one of the things they believed in was you?
Some people you know never get that experience. They don’t have the benefit of nurturing parents who create a caring and loving home and pass along the early lessons which are the building blocks for positive growth. No instead of placing value on inclusion, giving back, leading by example, sharing and education, they teach looking out for number one, taking what you can get and the school of hard knocks.
To be fair, most parents do believe they love their kids. Some are overwhelmed with the responsibility, lack the skills required to really be positive role models because they never had the benefit of positive ones in their own upbringing. They pass on what they know because it’s all they know, and they lack the resources to learn anything different.
By the time many young people are conscious of themselves, society at large and where they fit in, they’ve already been largely identified as having potential or not, from good homes or not, and the labels for good or not are being affixed. The future for such a young person is largely influenced by which social class they are born into, their location of birth, the opportunities they are afforded and their genetics.
One key factor as well in affecting someone’s potential is the appearance in their lives of someone who truly cares enough to provide some ethical or moral guidance; often unlooked-for and unexpected. Now it could be a teacher, a big brother or sister, a neighbour, shopkeeper, social services agency worker or, well…maybe even you or I.
In the case of a formal arrangement, there are groups who pair up young children and teens who could use some positive role models with older adults. These groups hold events, encourage interaction on a regular basis and hope that just time together will influence for good the young developing child who could use the benefit of a nurturing guide.
Formal arrangements are fine for some. Often; more often actually, we are influenced by those around us who we interact with on a more random basis. The teacher whose class we find ourselves in might be such a person. Seeing something of interest and value in a child who can’t see it themselves yet, and providing that same child with the opportunity to explore and experiment with whatever talents they might have in small doses without trampling and squashing out that gift.
What though of you and I? After all, maybe in the work we do and the lives we interact with because of it, there are opportunities each day to connect with people and possibly lay some foundation for a relationship. Maybe it starts off with a few positive interactions, casual offers of help or even just being available. Some people who have had the benefit of a mentor or guide can think back very clearly to their very first encounter with the person, while the mentor has no recollection of that initial contact whatsoever.
This difference is largely attributed to the fact that many people are so use to being passed over, talked down to – if talked to at all or being ignored, that it is a memorable event when someone engages with them who doesn’t necessarily want something in return. How significant it is then to constantly be aware of the potential you and I have each day to influence for good or not, and to look for the opportunities of engagement.
Now I myself know the faces of those whom I’ve had the benefit of positive engagement with in the past. Often I wasn’t aware enough in the time I had with them to appreciate or thank them. As we grow and age, people come in and out of our lives, sometimes reappear and sometimes leave for good. It’s not essential or required that we hunt them down years later and thank them when we realize their impact on us. In fact, many of them know instinctively at the time they are influencers of good and that’s enough for them. That’s part of their make up.
You and I though? We don’t need a formal education or a fancy job title. We don’t have to have a big pay cheque or a shiny new car. To be an influence of good, to be thought of later as ‘the one’ who believed in me when nobody else did; who saw something in me I couldn’t see myself – to be that person, could you do that?
I believe we have these chance encounters on a daily basis. Maybe it’s sitting down distraction-free and really just listening to someone with your full attention. In a digital age with technology at our fingertips, that may be shocking to some people just to have someone give them 100% of their attention.
Maybe too it’s just saying, “Sure”, when someone says, “Have you got a few minutes?” or just going about your own work with a moral compass as your guide. Who knows? Listen to others this week and look for the opportunities. See if you don’t find yourself in a situation where yes, you in fact, might just be the one.