When I was in the fifth grade, I wanted to be a poet. I wrote poems but kept them to myself. I was a quiet, introverted boy going through some things and I found poetry a challenging and fun thing to do...but I never shared my poems with anyone.
Then my teacher found one I wrote about the trees outside our school on the page of a notebook I'd accidentally left out on my desk during lunch.
She was kind and told me how much she loved it. She asked if I had more, and I shared a few more with her. Every week, she'd ask how I was coming along and I found myself trying harder thanks to her kindness.
You see, away from that classroom I was going through some stuff. I was being bullied on my bus ride to and from home. I wasn't a gifted athlete so gym class was humiliating. I was awkward and often found myself being the punchline of many jokes by classmates. But that teacher made me believe I had value there.
I never became a poet but I've written books (both novels and motivational) and now I get up in front of hundreds of students every year to try to encourage them to believe in themselves using magic and laughter.
But I never would have had the courage to try if not for the kindness of a teacher spending a few moments of her busy day to encourage a quiet little skinny kid trying to fade into the background. Now every time I step in front of a group of students or any corporation, I remember what it was like to desperately need affirmation of my worth and value. I do what I do largely in part due to Miss McCane's kindness.
Never doubt for one moment the value of a warm smile or an encouraging word you give the people around you. It could be the only nice thing they hear that day, and you might even be the unknowing highlight of a person's week.
You make a difference whether you realize it or not.
By the way, I recently reconnected with Miss McCane and told her the story I shared with you. She's a happily retired grandmother now but always loves finding out how "her kids" turned out. She had no idea what a difference she'd made and that's the point: you may never know until years later how important you really were to someone else's life!
P.S. I have several programs built specifically to encourage your team to believe in themselves and what they can become. If you'd like to talk about what we can do for your organization, contact me and I'd love to discuss it with you.