Earlier this week, I was invited to speak to a group of young people, by a teacher friend of mine. We had known each other for about a year, but I had never spent time with her at the school, where she changes lives, until this day.
During our conversations, we discussed the impact teachers have. She explained to me, that in her nearly three decades of working in education, she could count on her two hands the children she had affected with a long-term impact.
Before the group of high schoolers descended on the room where I was to share my story, we went for a walk to the library where, during a break, she helped young students purchase nutritious snacks and bottles of water. During the short ten-minute break, I stood back and watched as teenager after teenager sought her out to ask for advice, say hi, or as her to proof read an essay.
As we walked back to my presentation room, I had to mention that I think she has drastically underestimated her impact on others. I shared the fact that my 9th grade English teacher probably doesn’t remember my name, but I sure remember the extra time Mrs. Ellis spent reassuring me that I could pass.
I didn’t think at that time to tell the vulnerable story that I have tried to block out of my memory, but is still part of my journey. I remember vividly the shame in having to ask lunch room attendants if they would allow me to “charge” a lunch in 7th grade because my stepmother at the time made sure only her natural born children would have food to eat. I don’t know if these women allowed me to eat for free or if they paid for the meal out of their own pockets, either way it was appreciated both then and now.
The ironic part of this story, is I know where this feeling comes from as I too feel the same way.
I have received a note from a student telling me “you’ve made such a huge impact in my life! Thank you so much!” I didn’t feel I deserved that kind of statement. All I did was ask someone if she could shadow them as they held her dream job. I asked one person, one question.
Next, is part of a very personal letter I received from a friend after she started her business. “I feel forever indebted to you! I am so fortunate for your dedication to my work.” We are great friends and like any great friend, I simply encouraged her to chase her dreams.
I believe the reason selfless people trivialize our impact on others is just that, we’re selfless.
When I asked if the young high school student could shadow, I wasn’t looking for something in return. I wanted her to experience her dream job and if I could help facilitate that I was happy to do so.
When I encouraged my friend to start her business, I wasn’t looking for anything in return. I had personally experienced the dream of owning a business and would only encourage her to do the same.
Remember it doesn’t take much to have a lasting impact.