Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Who You Are Makes a Difference - Inspirational Story

I am working on the proposal for my book, "Meaning: The Way to a Profoundly Happy and Purposeful Life" and I thought I'd share this story from it with you.

Inspirational Story: Who You are Makes a Difference

A High School teacher wanted to honor each of her senior students by telling them the difference each of them had made to her. She called each student to the front of the room, one at a time. She told each of them how they had made a difference to her and their classmates. Then she gave each one a blue ribbon, embossed with gold letters, which stated, "Who I Am Makes a Difference."

Afterwards, the teacher assigned a class project to see what kind of effect such recognition would have on the community. She handed three more blue ribbons to each student and instructed them to go out and pay it forward to others in their community. The students were told to follow up on the results, see who was received the ribbons, and report back to the class in two weeks.

One of the students went to a manager in a nearby software firm, and recognized the manager for helping him with his career planning. He presented him with the blue ribbon and pinned it on his shirt. Then, he gave the manager two extra ribbons and said, "We're doing a class project on appreciation, and we'd like for you to find one other person to honor, give them their blue ribbon. Then give them the extra ribbon so they can recognize a third person, to continue our recognition project.” He then asked the manager to report back to him afterwards so he could share it with the class.

Later that same day, the manager went in to see his superior, who was generally regarded as a negative and grouchy person. The manager told his superior that he respected him tremendously for his creative ingenuity. The superior appeared quite surprised. The manager asked his boss if he would accept the blue ribbon. His surprised boss said, "Well, okay." The manager pinned the blue ribbon right on his boss's sports jacket, near his heart.
As he gave him the final extra ribbon, he asked, "Would you take this last ribbon, and pay it forward by honoring somebody else. The student who initially gave me these ribbons is doing a project for class, and we want to keep this appreciation project going to find out how it affects others."

That evening, the boss came home to his 15-year-old son, and sat down with him. He told his son, "The most amazing thing happened to me at work today. I was sitting in my office, and one of the mid-level managers came in. He told me he admired me and presented me with a blue ribbon for being so creative. Who would have thought?! He thinks I'm incredibly creative! Then he put this blue ribbon on my jacket that says, "Who I Am Makes a Difference." He gave me one additional ribbon and asked me to find someone else to honor with it. While I was coming home tonight, I began thinking about who to honor with this ribbon, and I thought about you. I want to show my admiration for you. My days are really busy and I get very tired and when I come home, I know I don't pay much attention to you. Sometimes I yell at you for not doing your homework and for messing up your bedroom. But for some reason, this evening I just wanted to let you know that you do make a difference to me. Along with your mother, you are the most important two people in my life. My life would be meaningless without you. And I want you to know that I think you are a wonderful person, and I love you!"

The startled teenager broke out in tears and began to sob. His whole body trembled with sadness. He gazed up at his father and mumbled through his tears, "Dad, earlier today I wrote a letter to you and Mom, telling you why I had killed myself, and asking for your forgiveness and understanding. I was going to kill myself tonight with your gun after you fell asleep. I didn't think that you cared about me. The letter is upstairs. I don't think I need it after all." His father went upstairs into his son’s bedroom and found a heartfelt letter full of anger, sadness and pain.

The boss went back to work a changed man. He was no longer a grouch. He made sure to tell all his employees that they made a difference to him. The manager helped many other high school students with their career planning, and always remembered to let them know what a difference they made in his life. And the student and his classmates learned a valuable lesson, "Who you are does make a difference."

And who you are is determined largely by how well your brain is working. The brain affects everything you are and everything you do - your emotional well-being, your relationships, work, parenting, marriage, and even your relationship with a higher power. To understand yourself and those around you, you must understand your brain. If your brain is working right, then you are working right.[i]

[i] Amen, D. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. 1999. Three Rivers Press.

Guide To Self(C) 2005.


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