The morning rush typical of most downtown coffee shops had died down. I didn’t have to strain to hear the words of the beautiful twenty-something writer with bright, clear eyes sitting across from me. Her fingers were perched above something that resembled an iPad. She was ready to take notes for a magazine article she was writing about my journey.
Would she get it? I wondered. Would she understand the relevance of the Hands Free message or would she think that I am out of touch with what is important in the modern world today?
The writer interrupted my insecure thoughts with a warm and welcoming offer. “Instead of asking questions, I like to ask people just to tell their stories. I find they don’t leave anything out that way.”
Tell me your story. I was suddenly hopeful. This sounded like the start of the best interview I’d ever had.
I was no more than five minutes in when I told the most important part of my story: the kiss my daughter placed on the palm of my hand. It happened when I took my first step to be less distracted and more present. I’d temporarily let go of all my distractions—the phone, computer, to-do list … the pressure, perfection, guilt—and simply held my child. Her response was a kiss on my hand that ultimately changed my life.
The young woman’s fingers stopped typing. Her eyes had that unmistakable shine of unspilled tears. She blinked in rapid succession as if trying to force the emotion from escaping. “Wow,” was all she said.
“It’s very emotional,” I agreed, feeling moved by her heartfelt reaction to my story.
I continued on, describing more experiences like the kiss that kept propelling me forward on my journey towards a less distracted, more meaningfully connected life.
“As you are talking, I keep thinking of my favorite quote,” the young lady remarked cupping her steaming coffee with one free hand. “If nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?” she recited. “It’s from a book by Jon McGregor. I loved the quote so much I painted the words on a canvas and hung it in my apartment.” Her face lit up as she divulged this little bit about herself—this bit that revealed what made her heart sing.
It was my turn to be captivated. I felt as if she had just given me a gift—a gift of understanding … of unity … of camaraderie. This beautiful young lady got exactly what I was saying—she recognized the importance of living with open hands and open eyes. Like my younger daughter, she was a Noticer of remarkable things. I vowed not to forget her beautiful offering. Little did I know just how much it would impact me in the hours ahead.
After leaving the coffee shop, I headed to my daughters’ school. I was invited to speak to a second grade Girl Scout troop about achieving their dreams. I’d jotted some notes, a few things I wanted to be sure and tell the children about setting goals and using positive affirmations.
But as the girls sat in front of me like little sponges with expectant eyes, I felt compelled to share specifics from my personal journey rather than vague generalizations. But would they get it? Or would the story of my highly distracted life sound like a foreign language to them? Would they stare at the clock wondering how many agonizing minutes until my talk was over?
Despite my reservations, I told my story. And when I got to the part about my daughter’s kiss on my hand, there were a few little gasps … a few smiles … a few shining eyes.
I looked around carefully to make sure everyone was still with me. Even my own daughters who sat at a table in the back of the room looked at me with hopeful faces wanting to hear more of a story they’d heard many times before.
And so I continued. I told the children how I wrote about the kiss on the hand and published it on a blog. I told them how my story inspired other people to look for their own Kiss On the Hand moments—those beautiful moments we so often miss in our busy, distracted lives. I told the girls about how I kept clicking “publish” every week for years until finally a book publisher took notice and thought my story was book worthy.
I held up my finished book, my 240 pages of little moments that made life worth living. And when I did, I saw fire in those children’s eyes. I saw dreams igniting right then and there.
“Tell me your dreams,” I said. “What do you hope to accomplish?”
One by one, their small hands raised triumphantly.
Singer on The Voice
Pro basketball player
College softball player
Olympic Ice Skater
“But what if someone says, ‘You can’t do that’? What if someone says, ‘You don’t have a chance’? What if someone says, ‘You’re no good’?” I challenged.
“Don’t listen to them!” one girl fired back.
“You know what you should listen to?” I asked. “Listen to your heart when you hold that basketball. Listen to your heart when you take that pencil in your hand and can’t stop writing. Think about what it feels like to sing at the top of your lungs. Think about what it feels like to do something you love to do. But don’t stop there. Share that incredible feeling with someone else. Because if we share our remarkable thing, someone else might notice his or her remarkable thing.”
I searched the girls’ faces one by one. They were still with me—listening, learning, digesting what I had to offer. And that’s when I leaned forward and lowered my voice to almost a whisper. “Maybe you don’t make it to The Voice. Maybe you don’t make the pros or land a book deal. That doesn’t mean you didn’t succeed. Maybe sharing your journey, your dream, or what excites your heart is the achievement. Maybe inspiring someone else to see his or her life differently is the success.”
After receiving big hugs and signing books for each precious girl, I walked out of the building with my daughters. As always, my older daughter was five steps ahead. I held back for my stop-and-smell-the-roses younger daughter.
As I fell in stride with her leisurely gait, she grabbed my hand. “I teached you, Mama? Tell me again what I teached you.”
Although my children were not part of the Girl Scout troop, it was apparent this little girl listened to my presentation and wanted to hear a certain part again. I was happy to oblige. “You taught me that life should not be lived in a hurry. You taught me that if I slowed down, I could see all the beautiful things. You always had this huge smile on your face and I didn’t. That’s when I realized I could learn a lot from you about living life.”
My child suddenly stopped walking and looked up, her little glasses teetering on the edge of her nose. “Remember when I kissed your hand, Mama. That’s when I changed your life.”
For a moment, I had no words. I was suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift I received from a twenty-something writer with hopeful eyes who let me tell my story over coffee.
If nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?
How can they spread like a kiss drifting in the wind?
How can they inspire a future generation?
How can they find their way back to the person who created one of the most remarkable moments of your life?
Now, more than ever, we must speak of remarkable things. Now, when undivided attention is a rare and priceless commodity … now, when we too often choose glowing screens over shining sunlight … now, when digital notifications take precedence over soul-to-soul connection.
Now more than ever, we must speak of the remarkable things that make our heart sing … that fill our eyes with tears … that bring beauty, comfort, and joy to our ordinary, mundane lives.
You may think the person on the other end won’t get it.
But maybe she will.
So speak. Speak of what makes your heart sing. Speak of what alters the way you see your life.
Because you never know who might be listening …
And using your dream to envision her own.
Friends of the Hands Free Revolution, tell me your remarkable things … tell me what makes your heart sing … tell me your dreams. Let’s share. Let’s inspire. Let’s dream big. I love to hear your stories.
A few remarkable things to share with you …
1) Two brilliant Stanford University students reached out to me to tell me about a life-saving app they are developing for drivers called Strive. They hope America will use it to Strive to Drive Safe. Andrew, one of the app designers, described it like this:
“Strive is a free application that has two very simple functions. The first is an automatic ‘Do Not Disturb the Driver mode’ that is triggered when the smartphone user is moving – calls, texts, emails and notifications are silenced until she or he has safely arrived. The second Strive function makes the user’s contact book smarter. Instead of showing just a contact name, each Striver will show a car icon in front of their name if they are driving, forever removing the need to ask that benign but potentially deadly question, ‘Are you on your way?’ It is our hope is that parents use the app, share it with their kids, and help build healthy habits and safe communities.”
Andrew and Linus are looking for a testing group of two dozen people who use either iPhone or Android to test it out. If you are interested, please fill out the form here or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
2) Robin O’Bryant wrote a book because she had a message to share, one that she thought would validate others and bring humor to their lives. For two years she tried to land a traditional book deal. When that didn’t happen, she redefined what success looked like for her and self-published, “Ketchup is a Vegetable” in 2011. In 2013, her book hit the New York Times Bestseller List! It was recently re-released through St. Martin’s Press and is now found on shelves everywhere! Check it out and be inspired to go after your dream!
3) Best news for last … friends, last week this community opened their arms wide and because of your generous donations several more orphans living in the Ugandan slums are able to come live in one of the amazing Rescue Homes. I wept when I listened to the lullabies you wrote for the babies that the housemothers are now singing to them. I am so grateful for your generous hearts!
Now tell me your remarkable things …