“You give me life
Life, my dear
You give me strength to beat the odds
And overcome my fears
You make me feel like I belong under the sun.”
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.
Beautiful as always. Am happy that there are some soul changers in my life, and I hope I touch their lives as much as they touch mine!This was a great reminder!
I love you so, Soul Changer. What an impact you have made on my life. Thank you. Thank you. So thankful for you. XO <3
Laura Carlson Dalton says
I am writing this through tears, for I have so often been crippled by my own fears and anxieties that there hasn’t been room for me to hold that soul-changing space for those I love most dearly. There are so many things I want to be and do for them, ways I long to encourage and uplift them, but the belief that I have messed up too often for too long makes me paralyzed in the face of desired changes. How do I begin the changes in me which will unlock all the potential in those I love?
begin today x
Rachel Stafford says
Laura this is something I wrote not too long ago. I think it might help you:
“Take a moment and consider this:
Maybe the words, “I’m sorry,” can be the start of a freeing dialogue your heart’s been yearning to have.
Maybe those you have wronged could be more forgiving than you are to yourself if given the opportunity.
Maybe second chances are not given to you but rather something you offer yourself by using new words and new actions.
Maybe who you are NOW is more important than who your were THEN.
Whether it’s been five minutes, five months, or five years since you messed up,
it’s not too late to speak words of remorse,
it’s not too late to offer forgiveness to those you love or yourself,
it’s not too late to be the person you always wanted to be.
Because who you are now is more important than who you were then.
Who you are now is more important than who you were then.
Just think of the gift you’ll be giving those who are learning how to live by watching you live—not perfectly, but with small, positive steps and daily doses of grace.”
My favorite line of this poem is: “Maybe second chances are not given to you but rather something you offer yourself by using new words and new actions.” I think that is your key, my friend.
The change has already begun <3
Wow Rachel – thank YOU for being my Soul Changer. Truly your words have had a HUGE impact on my life. I hope you take gentle loving care of yourself these two weeks. You surely deserve it – you give so so much to all of us.
I am a music therapist, counselor, and teacher. I am currently teaching and no longer in private practice in music therapy and counseling. However, I want to highlight for your daughter that the musical connection in therapy is like no other. To be in a musical space with a client who is showing you their inner being in a way that can only be shown through music took my breath away. As a music therapist I got to see so many brilliant parts of people who without music appeared mute or different or unable to connect with anyone. Jt was beautiful. The connection is so different that often there are not words to describe it, only music I wish her the best in her journey to find a profession.
Cynthia Berthiaume says
Thanks for writing this Rachel! It brought tears to my eyes and will help me focus on being a soul changer as I go through a difficult time with my son. I have felt so alone lately and you have reminded me of the soul changers I have in my life–even though they are thousands of miles away!
Congratulations, Rachel! I have been thinking of you often the past few days and especially Tuesday as I knew it was the ‘big day’– so proud of you for finishing strong. 🙂 Enjoy the well-deserved rest !!!
“Sometimes all we need to believe in ourselves is one person to remind us of what we already know”. Your words Rachel are always a gentle reminder…..Thank-you for being my Soul Changer.
Oh my word, I needed to read this today. After a rough week, your words reminded me that yes I have worth even if it is hard to see in the moment. I never forgot that I had worth, but this week my glorious friends reminded me over and over through some rough times that I am a great person and great teacher. My life is full of soul changers, and for that I am grateful.
Linda W says
I’ve never heard this term, but people have said something similar to me. And I recognize that others have been this for me too. 🙂 So thank you for this.
Maren B says
Listening is a gift, too, & most of us can do that!
Love this!! Amen sister!!! Xxxx
I loved this article!! As a Kindergarten teacher and mom, it reminded me why I’m doing all the many many things I do in a day-wipe tears, encourage kids, say their name lovingly, give hugs, put on band-aids, teach, listen, and so so many more. I’m a soul changer!
Jenny Johnston says
Congratulations on finishing your book. I am working my way through Book 1 for the 5th time and Book 2 for the 3rd time. I hope that you get some much needed rest and time with your family and friends.
With love and appreciation,
I have tears flowing down my face as I read this! I can’t tag or share with my soul changer unless I pray as my Grandma is heaven now! All she ever wanted for me was to be happy in my life! I strive every day to be the soul changer for others and as my husband recently reminded me, I can’t go to the dark, lonely place because my positive energy is a force for others. As a former Manager of people, the most rewarding part of the job was seeing the delight on people’s faces when they were truly happy for themselves and all it took from me at times was a gentle reminder of their strengths. I truly loved this!
Thank you once again got words that touch my heart and encourage me to keep trying each day to be the mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and person God created me to be. You truly are a soul changer! Bless you!
Regina @ A Journaled Life says
Amen. Amen. Amen.
Praying for your rest!
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, friend.
Beautiful post, Rachel. I can only hope that someday I find a love like yours. I have to admit, I don’t have much faith in that nowadays…
“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.” These words brought tears to my eyes as so many of your posts have done before. I wish I knew a soul changer who could see my inner light. You are lucky to be that person to many people, as well as know people who can do the same for you.
Meghan Weyerbacher says
Thanks for sharing, Rachel. This is just beautiful!