There are some 90 folders in my gmail account. A few of them I dump into fairly often: “Purchases,” “Enneathoughts,” “Lamorinda Weekly” as of late. Some serve mostly as archives—folders from previous jobs, past relationships, possible housing and long lists of potential plans. At the top of the list is folder marked “Addresses”. And at the bottom? Well, I rarely chance to scroll to the bottom of those 90 folders. But the bottom folder is my favorite. The bottom is a life source.
Last only because my folders are arranged in alphabetical order, at the bottom of my sidebar is a folder labeled “You Can Do It”. It is the second folder of this nature that I have created and it is my favorite for good reason. Because life and work can be difficult and discouraging, especially when you work independently and from home. And encouragement is very important, especially when you are, well, human.
The first e-mail in the folder
is from the first article I wrote for the Lamorinda Weekly. It wasn’t a particularly epic article, but the feedback I received filled me with such effervescent joy and giggly delight that I could almost feel it shooting from my eyes as they scanned across my computer screen.
Hi Amanda – the article is so well written and looks great in the paper with the photos — thank you so much again for telling the story. Daniela had so many kids coming up to her at school telling her that they saw her in the paper; Daniela’s coach brought the paper to the swim practice to show the other swimmers … we’ve had such a great response and feedback from everyone in the community. Thanks again.
The second message is from a Swiss woman named Esther who teaches balance classes for senior citizens in the Lamorinda area. I interviewed her at Lafayette’s French Bakery Cafe and Tea House, which very sadly has since closed. Over a pot of steaming ceylon leaves she told me about her family and career and how she moved to California. Her eyes danced as she spoke about new research in her field and described her relationship with her students. I kept trying to guess at her age, but eventually gave up. There was too much life softening every laugh line, so much vibrancy in her smile. The article itself was just a bonus to our conversation.
What a wonderful article you put together and the picture is perfect as well! Thank you so very much for all your hard work on this. Everyone who read it commented on how beautifully it was written and how it captured the spirit of the people who talked. ( I think I will have to frame it!…) Amanda you are a true writing talent with the rare ability to put the essence of people and their stories into words and lending it a wonderful liveliness. Great things are in store for you and I wish you all the best on this exciting life’s journey! I feel lucky to have met you and will be excited in the future to read writings by you! Take care and I hope to see and read about you soon.With appreciation Esther
Friends, strangers, and readers of all types, I cannot tell you how important it is to encourage the people in your life. Not to flatter or mislead them, but to honestly affirm their strengths and gifts, regardless of how well you know them. There are many reasons we don’t do this as much as we should. Often we are too focused on ourselves, on our own deficiencies and insecurities. Sometimes we are jealous. We do not want to tell the waitress how good she looks in that yellow vintage shirt-dress or share with one of our co-workers that he really nailed his presentation. But sincere and honest encouragement can only be a good thing. It builds up and brings up creating a domino effect that makes everyone want to do what they do just a little bit better.
The “You Can Do It” folder is helpful. I go back and read and re-read those messages, especially when I am in a slump, when my pitches have been rejected or my articles have been pulled. I remember that I have a gift for this writing thing, or at least the capacity for it. But that folder would not exist if there were not e-mails to put in it, if there was no encouragement to go back to, no reassurance to combat my doubt.
I don’t usually blog with such explicit mandates, but this one I can’t help. If you do nothing else today, look for one person, just one, who has a skill that you admire or a gift that you appreciate, even if you don’t fully understand it. Pay someone a sincere and honest compliment, text someone a word of affirmation. Type out the sort of e-mail that might make the recipient light up, that might help him through his day or pull her from her disappointment, the sort of e-mail that might just deserve a folder all its own.