Reality Check: Influencers, Helpers, and Heroes

We may never know the effect of extending a small kindness. In fact, we could perform a genuinely heroic act and never learn the result. We may not even know whether anyone noticed.

Being helpful and kind is more satisfying if we choose to do it because we know it’s the right thing to do (which is under our control) rather than acting for honours or applause from others (over which we have no control.)

What “helps” are truly helpful? To answer that, it’s useful to examine the kindnesses and help we’ve received from others.

When we look at our lives through the filter of help we’ve received, we find opportunities to be grateful. Grateful people tend to be happier than ungrateful people, so that’s kind of a bonus.

A bigger reason to review how others have helped us is that they provide concrete examples. Those examples remind us of the value of being helpful. And, they demonstrate what actions truly help.

Rodney Bullard writes about a teacher who helped him. As a lad, he couldn’t read well. Therefore, he didn’t like to read. It had been suggested that he might be “developmentally slower.”

You know how that story could turn out, don’t you? When you’re not good at something, it’s hard to keep trying. You get discouraged. You fall further behind. Ultimately, you may end up believing, “I can’t.”

Fortunately for young Rodney, his new teacher, Mrs. Adams, didn’t agree with the assessment. She believed he could learn to read and chose to tutor him over a summer to ensure that he did.

Did that change his life? Quite possibly so. Not only did Rodney learn to read, he learned what confidence feels like. He grew up, achieved recognition, prominence and success.

It doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time or effort to have a significant impact. For example, shortly into my first post-high school training experience, the only other girl in class decided to drop out. I wasn’t exactly brimming with self-confidence myself and her departure left me feeling even more shy and isolated.

Bernie Green was a no-nonsense instructor. Formerly of the Royal Navy and an expert in his field, he was just a little imposing. Shortly after I’d learned that my friend had left, Mr. Green stopped me in the hallway. The conversation went like this:

“I do hope that you’re not planning to leave us, Miss Beck.” He put significant emphasis on “you’re.”

“Uhhh, no sir,” was my less than confident response.

“Good!” Off he strode. Mission accomplished; discussion over.

That was the extent of the conversation. Decades later, that brief interaction still resonates with me.

Why? I had considered myself invisible. Yet, here was this giant (from my perspective) who not only knew my name, but apparently had some preference that I continue. Huh! Who knew?

Maybe there was a chance that I could succeed in what seemed then to be a very uncertain endeavour! Was his encouragement helpful? Definitely.

Many people have popped up with encouragement and guidance in my life. Sometimes it’s a brief interaction, as with Bernie Green. In other cases, it’s been over years. For example, Mrs. Kelly taught me math so thoroughly in high school that I emerged, unwittingly, being relatively capable. Acquiring that skill made a positive impact on my career direction, and therefore, on my life.

So, when you have the chance to help and encourage, do it. You may never know the effect. But if you look at how others have encouraged you, you’ll know it’s worthwhile to pass that on.

If you’d like to learn more about Rodney Bullard, his book is, “Heroes Wanted: Why the World Needs You to Live Your Heart Out.”

Who has helped and influenced you?

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