What a difference a few words can make.
On Friday morning, I received a phone call from a grandfather who told me how much he enjoys my newspaper column about young people.
Then first thing Monday morning, I received an email from an educator who told me the same thing and invited me to speak to her class. A little later in the day I received a card out of the blue from a former client who tells me he's doing well in his relationship with his girlfriend, and thanks me for what he learned in class.
At 9 p.m., a man who had just completed his last session of domestic violence intervention handed me a heartfelt note describing how transformative the last six months have been for him. He wrote that I am the best teacher he ever had.
I am a blessed man.
None of these thoughtful people could have known how challenging the last few months have been for me. Or just how much self-doubt I was struggling with-wondering if my efforts made a difference to anyone.
Some days this old world just seems to make a mockery of the values I hold dear. Peace. Love. Empathy. I read the latest headlines and wonder if I am just hopelessly naive. I want to spend my life helping people get together, rather than passively watching everything disintegrate. But it's hard sometimes, you know?
In his book Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen wrote, "How can we choose love when we have experienced so little of it? We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity. A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit... all these are little steps toward love. Each step is like a candle burning in the night. It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness. When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey."
Grandfather, teacher, old fella, and young fella: your affirmations the other day were an unexpected and wonderful grace. Whether you realized it or not, you were a spring in the middle of my desert. I am forever grateful.
Thought for the week: Who can I reach out to this week to with a word of encouragement or appreciation?
Ian Eastman, M.A., is a community educator with Family Services of Warren County-a charitable agency that provides counseling, substance abuse services, and support groups.