Yesterday I was at an event where I reconnected with a friend I hadn’t seen for a while. At the conclusion of a brief but meaningful conversation, he said to me as we parted, “I enjoy your weekly message, and don’t quit writing.” If I hear those kind words from someone, I usually chuckle and say they’re probably the only one that’s reading it. Now, I know that isn’t true because I read my blog, so that makes two of us… chuckle, chuckle.
Why didn’t I just graciously say thank you? What is it in me that finds it awkward to accept compliments and feels a need to deflect the kind words with a self-deprecating comment? I’m not quite sure what the full answer is to that question. This is probably a case study for some aspiring psychology major who would conclude it’s tied to my self-esteem or lack thereof which has crippled my ability to just say, “Thank you; you are so kind.” But the truth be known, I am honestly, and this is not false humility, both honored and humbled that with the hurricane of messages that flood the airways, my message is read and valued. The truth is, most of the time I struggle with “writer’s block” and wonder if my external processing ramblings reflect my own feelings or yours, too.
Now where is this week’s Ford’s Focus, which is out of focus at this present moment, headed? Here it is. None of us can or will, this side of heaven, know what impact our life is making on others. Most of us view our lives as pretty ordinary and we under value or under estimate the power of our verbal’s or non-verbal’s on those we touch. The truth is that more than we know our demeanor often sets the thermostat in many of the encounters we make each day. A smile, a frown, or a flippant or kind comment can change the mood of a team meeting or a casual conversation. Dr. Richard D. Dobbins, one of my heroes, often spoke of the power of presence. He referred to it as our invisible imprint. Just like each of us has our own finger print and DNA distinction, we leave our invisible persona wherever we are or have been.
Each of us has a little guy or gal in our lives that are human hurricanes. Wherever they go, they leave their finger prints and presence. You see a dumped bowl of cereal here and their sticky hands on the patio door over there. But at the end of the day, after the third and final wash, they lay sleeping; another imprint of another kind surfaces. Yes, they left temporary messes to clean up, but they also leave memories that will last forever. One of those little guys in my life is my oldest grandchild, Nathan, who is now a big guy.
Sunday I attended his graduation party at a picnic shelter at Wingfoot State Park that was transformed into a party center/museum. Memorabilia that ranged from his first baby outfit to enough pictures to fill the Smithsonian Institute Museum, along with medals and placards from musicals he participated in filled the cavernous space. In just 19 short years Nathan’s imprint was witnessed by the scores of well-wishers who stopped by to dine from the taco bar, waffle and chicken bar, salad bar, and every other kind of bar except one serving liquor.
After the event as I reflected on the day I wish I had kept a diary of all of those Nathanisms he would spontaneously retort which made me laugh and sometimes cry. One of my favorite was when he was a really little guy, and it was the Christmas season. Since school was out, our home was his home away from home. So, it’s Christmas afternoon, and his parents took him to visit his other grandmother in Akron. As he was leaving I said, “Nathan, you are not even gone yet and I already miss you.” Without taking a breath he said something like, “Papa, that’s not normal.” I howled in laughter and thought about his response later. You know, he’s right? My love for him exceeds a natural affection and every grandparent knows exactly what I am saying is true. His imprint is all over my heart which is why I call him almost every day. I’m not a tattoo guy, but if I was, I would seriously consider getting a tattoo of one of his Nathanisms.
At the end of the day, it’s nice for people to value what we do, and I need to work harder at graciously acknowledging their kind words of affirmation. Why am I taking the time to communicate the need for each of us to value ourselves, the way others do? It’s because the volume of our self-talk is too often louder than the voice of others, and often we aren’t aware of the propensity to gravitate to negative self-talk. This kind of “bashing” of ourselves is inspired by the “accuser,” Satan, the Father of Lies. We need to be careful and step back and evaluate our thoughts about ourselves, lest our words become self-fulfilling prophecies which shape our lens through which we view or interpret life.
Years ago Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was walking down a sidewalk in Hong Kong when he stopped to look through the window of a tattoo parlor. On display were different images and messages. One of those messages caught his eye which said, “Born to Lose.” He decided to enter the parlor to ask the artist if anyone ever had that negative message tattooed on their body. The answer to Dr. Peale’s question was, “Yes, sometimes,” to which he asked, “Why would anyone want this on their body?” The owner said, “Before tattoo on body, tattoo on mind.” How true! Our thoughts and what lens we view ourselves with have a direct impact on how we act or respond.
Here is a final thought to ponder. According to Isaiah 49:16 your name is tattooed or written or “engraved” on God’s hands if you are His child. I think that demonstrates how God thinks of you. Look at yourself through His eyes and start listening to the kind words of others that He’s put in your path to encourage you. Then go and do the same in the lives of others.