When I was in second grade, my classmate Toby's father got in front of our whole class to play the guitar and sing. I was sitting cross-legged on the carpet, right next to his feet. He was wearing sandles and had toenails deformed by a fungal infection. I remember looking down at those feet, but also up at the peaceful, beaming face of The Singing Dad. That image has stayed with me to this day.
I bet Toby's Dad would be shocked to know that more than 30 years later, someone remembers that day and the way his face looked when he played the guitar. Most of us, myself included, never realize the extent to which we inspire people - loved ones and strangers alike - with our words, our art, our acts of humor and kindness - things we don't think twice about, don't think much of at all.
As the author of this blog, I hit pockets where I think it doesn't matter that I write Creative Times. Even if the statistics shows that folks are reading it, the way I filter that information is "I don't know if this blog means anything to the people who read it. It's one of millions of blogs and maybe they forget it about it the next day."
This past week, I got off a plane in Santa Ana, 3,000 miles away from my home in New York. My boyfriend picked me up and drove me to a party hosted by his parents' best friends, Ron and Joanne. I had met Joanne a couple of years ago and she had sent some kind emails about my blog. I had forgotten about the emails.
Joanne came up to me at the party and said "I've really enjoyed your blog. I loved reading about the rainbow xylophone. And I did decide to sign up for the writing course." I then recalled that over the summer, she had been deliberating over signing up for the course, feeling like she had nothing to say. I had sent emails to encourage her to take the course, saying she had plenty to say.
Anyway, it sort of blew my mind that Joanne in sunny Orange County liked reading about the rainbow xylophone I had purchased at a stoop sale 3,000 miles away in Brooklyn, New York.
After the incident with Joanne, I started thinking about Toby's dad and how he left a mark in my mind that's stayed all these years. That's when I started to think about how every move we make has such incredible staying power, such capacity to move and inspire people around us. I began to entertain the idea that there might be other Joannes out there who have been impacted in some way by things I have written. Just because I'll never see or hear from those folks doesn't make my writing less important.
So I'm trying to remember - and maybe you could, too - that we each make a difference to people just by being who we are. Whether we know it or not, we do. Toby's dad, if you're out there listening, thanks for reminding me of this essential truth.
Art Credit: Michael Sorgatz