One day, a New York City high school teacher called up each of her senior students, one by one, to the front of the class. She proceeded to tell them how important each of them was to her, and to the class.
Then, she handed each one a blue ribbon that said in gold letters: “Who I Am Makes a Difference.” She explained to the class how much she cares about and appreciates each student. This was her “acknowledgment ceremony”, her way of showing kindness to all her students, regardless of their grades. It was her way of honoring and recognizing and making her students feel good about themselves.
The teacher then gave each student three more ribbons and told them each to hand them out to three people, and report back with the results. This class project would show what impact recognition would have on people.
One student was being counseled by a junior executive of a company. He thanked the man and told him how much he appreciated his help with the career planning. He told him “who you are makes a difference to me.” Then he did something very special. He pinned one of his three ribbons on the junior executive’s shirt. He gave the man his two remaining ribbons and asked him to help him by acknowledging and recognizing other people, giving them the ribbons and reporting back to him.
The junior executive had a meeting later that day with his boss. After their talk, he told the man (who was known for being grouchy) how much he appreciated him. He thanked him for the job and told him that he sincerely admired his creativity. The boss was very surprised to hear those words of recognition. He was touched. The junior executive took out one of his blue ribbons with the golden inscription of, “Who I Am Makes a Difference” and pinned it on the jacket of his boss.
Then he asked him to give out the last ribbon. He explained to him about the class project. The boss agreed.
That night, the boss came home and told his fourteen-year-old son that an incredible thing happened to him at work. He told him about the junior executive, and about how he felt when he put the ribbon on his jacket.
Then he said, “My days are really hectic and when I come home I don’t pay a lot of attention to you. Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school and for your bedroom being a mess, but somehow, tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me. Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You’re a great kid and I love you!”
The fourteen-year-old boy began to cry. His whole body shook. He just couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He had been feeling a lot of anger, a lot of pain. He had never heard his father use the words he just used.
This is the power of Chesed. It is the power of acknowledging and recognizing the people around us. How important is it to just stop what we’re doing, look around and say, “thanks for being here for me,” Can words of Chesed, of loving-kindness and compassion, or thanks and appreciation, boomerang back to us? Can these words actually save lives?
The words we use can kill. Yet they can also create happiness, love and even sustain life itself. By “putting ourselves out” we create our own beautiful reality and live our dreams.
One kind word can begin to rebuild a relationship. One kind, loving statement can save a life.
The next chance you get, look around, extend yourself to the people beside you and watch the beautiful, reciprocal, boomeranging results.
Reprinted from The Chesed Boomerang
Jack Doueck is a frequent speaker at synagogues, schools, youth groups and charity events. He is a principal of Stillwater Capital Partners LLC, a successful money management firm.