I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
– Maya Angelou
Just recently, my dear friend proposed that we participate in a 30 day writing challenge. At first, I was a little peeved. All of this on my plate, and now she wants me to take time to write about arbitrary things that won’t help me mark anything off of my agenda? Great. Reluctantly, I comply and we started that same day. On the first day, the prompt was to list ten things that made me really happy. I thoroughly enjoyed the prompt, so I decided that the writing challenge might not be that bad. Days went by, and I became eager to share my prompt with my friend. Suddenly, the prompt was: ‘write about something that someone told you that you would never forget’. Here’s what I said:
During my sophomore year at Vandy, we had an extended fall break and was given a few extra days due to practice being canceled. I was struggling with my identity, self-esteem, optimism and confidence, amongst other things. Instead of going home to be around my lovely family that think I walk on water, I forced myself to solitude. I decided to visit my aunt in San Diego. I knew that she led a very busy life and worked often, so I would have ample time to think and explore. Two days in to my visit, I decided to buy a train ticket to Los Angeles. I had never been before, and the train ride was only an hour and a half long. I was in awe from the beauty that I saw during the ride. To my right was graffiti and street art on every abandoned building, and to my left were two newlyweds, cooing their newborn. L.A., here I come!
I was twiddling my thumbs upon arrival. So much time, nowhere to be – what to do, what to do. I saw a corner store in the distance, and what better way to begin an exploration other than with snacks?! I walk into the store, and when I got inside, there was a lady already in there. Her eyes immediately found their way to me. How odd, I thought, I must have something on my face. Wherever I went, her eyes followed. Even when I knew she was unable to see me, I still felt like she was watching. Feeling the heat, I grabbed my go-to snacks – beef jerky and Cheez-Its – as fast as I could. She was standing by the counter, watching me pay for my things. I felt compelled to speak.
Me: “Hey, how goes it?”
She didn’t reply. Once again, how odd. I anxiously waited for the cashier to bag my things. As soon as he handed me the bag, I bolted the store like a bat out of hell. I was afraid. I was in a city I had never been in, and I knew no one. As I was speed walking out of the door, I heard her footsteps. I began walking faster and faster, and as soon as I was about to open into a sprint, she stops me. Instead of speaking and explaining why she had just grabbed my arm, she cried.
The confusion was overbearing at this point.
Who is this lady?
Why is she crying?
What does she want?
Am I going to get kidnapped and forced into sex trafficking because I’m cute?
She said, “My name is Diana Garrett. I don’t know what it is about you, but you just got it, kid. You have a light that shines so bright. You just have it. Shine on other people. Don’t ever let anyone take your shine. Don’t ever lose it. You just got it, kid.” The certainty in her proclamation was undeniable. My eyes were brought to a mist simply because she was so full of emotion and conviction.
I remember every single detail, from the route that I took to the store to the way her hair smelled when she gave me a hug. When I was full of doubt, Diana Garrett came along and gave me a new perspective. She made this moment in my life substantial.
Did I have the slightest clue of what she was talking about? No.
Did it matter? Not at all.
Whatever it was, she made me feel like I had it and she made me feel like I could – like I should – believe, in myself – in the universe. A breath of life.
You never quite know what someone may be going through, but just a few kind words could make the difference. Make it your goal to say something so genuine to someone, you inspire them without even knowing it. Not tomorrow, or the day after that, but today. The time is now. We all deserve it and are worth the effort.