It was still early in our relationship when my then-boyfriend (who is now my husband) asked me to accompany him on a two-hour drive to go to a job interview.
Why would a smart, confident guy with so many positive attributes want me to go with him to his job interview? I wondered skeptically.
In my delay to respond, Scott must have sensed the need to explain. What he said shocked me. “I believe in myself more when you’re with me. You remind me of all that I am.”
I racked my brain wondering what I’d done to evoke this type of strength within him. I immediately thought of the few times we’d studied together and how, as a budding teacher, I always tried to be positive and encouraging. At one point, Scott admitted a few things he was nervous about, including his biggest worry—that he’d have trouble getting a job after college. I simply reminded him of the glowing accolades said about him by former professors, employers, and coaches.
“You will have more than one job offer. Trust me,” I’d say confidently, knowing the voice of doubt could be loud in times of uncertainty—even for the strongest people.
I ended up taking that two-hour drive with Scott. I can’t even remember if he got the job; I only remember the look of gratitude on his face when he dropped me off, saying he would have been way more nervous if he’d gone alone. All I’d done was simply remind him of what he already knew—the good stuff we tend to forget about ourselves in times of doubt, stress, uncertainty, and fear.
Over the past two decades, I’ve referred to that experience many times: As a special education teacher looking into the eyes of a young man who killed his pet … as a mother whose Noticer of Life child admitted she felt “different” from the rest … as a confidant whose friend confessed dark truths she thought made her unworthy of happiness and true love.
“You might not be able to see it right now, but you hold great value,” I’d said to all of these precious people. “I see your value. And I am here to remind you when you forget.”
I have a dear friend who has written a literary masterpiece coming out in April that “illuminates one highly dysfunctional family’s tentative, desperate crawl toward a life of meaning and worth.” My friend says it happened largely because I believed in her. What Katrina doesn’t understand is that I had no choice. Her gift was so obvious and so needed in this hurting world I simply could not let her give up.
While working on the manuscript for my third book a few weeks ago, I needed grammar assistance. I knew exactly who to go to for help.
“Thank you, literary genius,” I texted Katrina after she provided exactly what I needed.
“You’re welcome, soul changer,” she wrote back.
I began to cry.
Out of all the things I could be in this world, I couldn’t think of anything better than that.
After regaining my composure, I jokingly told her I needed a nameplate with that glorious title. Shortly thereafter, Katrina sent me this, made by her daughter’s talented friend.
I never had to ask my friend what she meant by the term.
I knew exactly what it meant because of the experiences I had with my husband, my former student, and my child.
It means seeing someone’s inner light when he cannot see it for himself. It means putting your hands protectively around her light through upheavals and uncertainties so the precious light doesn’t diminish. It means reminding people of the beautiful things they know, but tend to forget, about themselves.
And I don’t do it for others due to noble reasons; I do it because it is what I hope someone will do for me. And because certain people in my life have done it for me.
One night Avery was playing her guitar and singing her heart out. Suddenly, I remembered an uplifting video I wanted to show her. As a self-professed “fan of adorable old people,” I knew Avery would enjoy seeing this video showing the impact of familiar songs on despondent seniors in a retirement home. The video was so touching and so personal, the newscaster lost his composure at the end of the segment.
After seeing the way the guitar-playing music therapist brought foot taping and hand clapping to the nearly lifeless seniors who began to sing along, Avery jumped up with excitement. “Music therapist? I never knew there was such a thing! I could do that, Mama! I want to do that!”
“There is very strong connection between music and memories,” I repeated from the news clip. “Just imagine. You could transport elderly people back to a beautiful time in their lives. You could help them remember their best memories and remind them of who they are.”
It suddenly occurred to me that we all have instruments in which we can change people’s souls. Some instruments are more obvious than others, but we all have them. Sadly, some people may never even know they’ve changed someone’s soul.
I am pretty sure my friend Bethany doesn’t know the magnitude of her actions shortly after the birth of my first child. The birth was an emergency situation and did not go as planned. My baby had to go in the neonatal intensive care unit, and then I was unable to feed her the way I’d hoped. Adding to my distress was the fact none of my clothes fit. I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror.
One Sunday afternoon, Bethany said, “Let’s get out and do a little shopping.” Reluctantly, I went. She patiently picked out cute clothes that would flatter my new shape and make me feel comfortable. She gushed over what certain colors did for my skin. She complimented my skills as a new mother. She made me laugh about things we laughed about before I was a mom. She reminded me I was still beautiful and worthy even though I was going through a tough time. She reminded me of the goodness inside me that stress, fear, and exhaustion had made me forget.
Thank goodness, they are all around us. Thank goodness, they are within us.
My friends, what an important role each of you play in this often-hurting world. You have the power and the instrument to help someone remember these critical truths: You are worthy. You hold value. You are not alone.
Perhaps you do it with strong hugs or comfort food delivered right to their doors.
Perhaps you do it with a make-up brush and healing hands.
Perhaps you do it with long drives, quiet presence, or faithful prayers.
Maybe it is your green thumb or the tender way you wipe tears.
Maybe it’s the way you remember people’s names and say them with love.
Maybe it’s the way you bring humor to heavy situations or drop everything when needed.
Maybe it’s the way you always know when to pick up the phone or send a hand-written card.
Sometimes all we need to believe in ourselves is one person to remind us of what we already know.
And like a familiar tune from long ago, just a few notes is all we need to start tapping our toes and singing the lyrics we never forgot. And low and behold, we find it’s just the anthem we need to carry on.
My friends of The Hands Free Revolution, before you read on, please think of someone who has changed your soul and send him or her this post or tag them in the comments on our Facebook page. We cannot allow someone to go one more day without knowing the important role they've played in our lives.
I have some very good news! I finished writing my third book, ONLY LOVE TODAY! On the deadline of March 1st, I submitted all 70,144 words to my publisher with tears of gratitude, relief, and great hope. When you hold this book in your hands next February, you will see for yourself how YOU have been MY soul changers. You are the reason this book was written. You are my encouragers and faithful companions. Every comment, every private message, every share of my work lets me know someone is on the other end of the lifelines I send out into the world. It makes all the difference when I know someone is holding the other end of the line. I cannot wait for you to see what happens when ONLY LOVE TODAY becomes the daily anthem of our lives. If you would like to go ahead and adopt the healing phrase, please enjoy free domestic shipping on the beautiful OLT bracelets (leather options in lavender and classic brown, as well as non-leather options in navy and orange) and ONLY LOVE TODAY hand-lettered prints. Use the code: ONLYLOVETODAY for free domestic shipping when checking out any items in the Hands Free Mama Shop today through March 6.
At this point, rest is needed for my weary brain and tired fingers. I will be back the week of March 21st fully restored and eager to send you more lifelines that remind you of the goodness within you and around you, in case you should ever forget. If you haven't read my two books, now would be a perfect time. Thank you for your loving support of my work.
* Don’t forget to thank the soul changers in your life and please watch the most beautiful video of elderly people being transported back in time with music. May you feel hope grow in your heart. I love you.