Zenon was in a good mood. It was a lovely summer’s day and he was walking to work through a residential neighbourhood.
Up ahead he could see the figure of a man, vigorously sweeping the street. As he approached, the man who looked world weary, stopped sweeping and moved to one side. Zenon stopped too and spoke to the sweeper, “Boy you are working pretty hard,” said Zenon. “The street looks very clean because of your sweeping.”
The sweeper beamed and said, “Well, I do my best.” He went on to say he was directed by his mother and the good Lord to always help people and do his best.
They talked for a few minutes. It turned
out the sweeper was out of a job, spent most nights in a hostel close by, but
continually tried to find ways to improve the area. He would sometimes knock on
the door of the homes and ask the person who came to the door if he could do
something to help, like sweep the sidewalk or carry out garbage. Sometimes they
said no, sometimes yes, and sometimes they paid him.
He always did it cheerfully.
Zenon was impressed and told him so. He
gave him some money and told him again the sweeping really made the street look
so much better, and that all passersby benefited.
Xenon walked on, feeling uplifted he had said these positive words. He glanced backwards and noticed the sweeper was attacking the sidewalk next door with even greater vigour, motivated because he felt appreciated and respected …something that was a rare happening in his life.
Everyone likes to be appreciated and
One day my friend Lawrence went into a hardware store. He could not find what he was looking for, so he asked the floor clerk. She located it but appeared to be disinterested.
Lawrence sensed she was a little “down in the dumps.” Lawrence thanked her, paid, and left the store.
Just outside the door, there was a woman selling flowers. Lawrence had an idea. He bought some flowers, turned around and went back into the store.
Spotting the clerk, he went over to her, gave her the flowers and said, “This is for looking after me and all the rest of your customers.” Her face turned the colour of the rose in the bouquet and her smile covered her whole face.
“Thank you,” she said. “I was having a terrible day. My son just got into a lot of trouble. No one has ever given me flowers before. These flowers have made my day!” They exchanged names and Lawrence went on his way.
Three months later Lawrence went back into the store. There in front of him was the clerk, Amerilda. On spotting him, Amerilda’s face lit up and with a loud voice and big smile she said, “HELLO LAWRENCE.”
One can say encouraging things in many ways. Ruben was acting as a mentor to a girl in Grade 7. Every Wednesday at lunch he would visit Julie at school. Julie lived close by with her single mom and sister.
There were no consistent men in Julie’s family and her mom’s occasional boyfriends did not stick around.
Ruben felt very incompetent in his mentoring role. He tried to talk with Julie but did not know what to talk about. They read, but Julie’s attention span was short. Her marks had slightly improved though.
At the end of the school year Ruben decided to stop his mentoring. He felt terrible about it as Julie was always excited to see him. He felt he was letting her down.
Ruben felt better, however, after his wife said, “Ruben, you helped Julie a lot. You were the only consistent male in her life. Just by showing up you told her she was important; this made her excited and gave her confidence and this was reflected in her schoolwork.”
Telling kids in sports they are great is a
common happening. However, normally it is the “star” who gets most of the
accolades. Often nothing is said to the other participants, who do not know if
they played well or not.
One female coach I know will speak quietly and individually to the other players after a game and say things like, “That was a phenomenal pass you made!” or, “You got back quickly to help your goalie.”
The opposite of saying positive things is
to be negative. This can occur many places, including at home, at school and the workplace.
At home a child’s view of themselves is based largely on how other family members speak and act towards them. Much can be the result of a parent saying, “Why did you not do better?” or yelling at them and calling them stupid.
Good parenting is much larger than the
scope of this blog, other than to say children from loving, positive,
supportive families are generally happier and more confident than are children
who are continually yelled at.
They often feel inadequate, unappreciated
Bullying is commonplace in schools. Children, unfortunately, can be mean and bullying is often carried out by children who want to show their superiority over other, often vulnerable, children. It is well-known bullying can have awful consequences. In spite of well-thought-out policies and procedures, problems persist.
Teachers can be key players in supporting
students and giving them confidence.
Often critical comments and actions are made, sometimes subtly, by fellow workers as a part of the politics of moving ahead.
Evaluations are a normal part of one’s
employment and good management will conduct regular performance reviews. This
may bring criticisms which may be justified and lead to improvements. Performance
reviews should always be carried out individually and in person.
It is commonplace, though, to say nothing, leaving the employee not knowing how they are doing, and sometimes they do not find out until they are fired. This can be a crushing experience and can lead to difficulties, name calling and lawsuits.
Sometimes career counseling is offered when a person is terminated. Career counseling can help people find out what they are good at and like to do to help them start a new career. Many exciting new careers have resulted from this. J.K. Rowling lost her job and became an author. The Harry Potter books were the result.
There are plenty of opportunities to say positive and supportive things at home, with your friends, at school, at work, or randomly. Generally they produce positive results.
I will close with one last story about a certain teacher I will call Bernice.
Teachers work in very challenging conditions that can result in much undeserved criticism. Teachers are often blamed for many of a child’s difficulties at school by parents, politicians and media alike. This was particularly true during and after COVID. Teachers live with this hanging over their head.
In addition, Bernice was going through a
nasty and devastating divorce.
Anyone who has gone through a divorce will
recognize how a divorce can tear you apart. You lose your confidence and any
sense of yourself.
Bernice was a good caring teacher and knew it but did not think she was teaching well. The inspectors came in for evaluation. They saw otherwise, as did the principal. They told the principal that Bernice was the best teacher in the school.
The principal passed this on to Bernice. In fact, the principal, because she believed it, told Bernice she was the “Wayne Gretzky” of the school.
These thoughtful and true words gave
Bernice much needed confidence and strength when she needed it the most.