“A college professor had his sociology class go into the Baltimore slums to get case histories of 200 young boys. They were asked to write an evaluation of each boy’s future. In every case the students wrote, ”He hasn’t got a chance.”
Twenty-five years later another sociology professor came across the earlier study. He had his students follow up on the project to see what had happened to these boys. The students learned that 176 had achieved more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors and businessmen.
“The professor was astounded and decided to pursue the matter further. Fortunately, all the men were still in the area and he was able to ask each one, ‘How do you account for your success?’ In each case the reply came with feeling, ‘There was this teacher.....’
“The teacher was still alive, so he sought her out and asked the old but still alert lady what magic formula she had used to pull these boys out of the slums into successful achievement.
“The teacher’s eyes sparkled and her lips broke into a gentle smile. ‘It’s really very simple,’ she said. ‘I loved those boys.’ “
“A boss came home to his 14-yeer-old son and sat him down. He said, ‘The most incredible thing happened to me today. One of the junior executives came in and told me he admired me and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine. He thinks I’m a creative genius. Then he put this blue ribbon that says “Who I Am Makes A Difference” on my jacket above my heart. He gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to honor. As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about whom I would honor with this ribbon and I thought about you. I want to honor you.
“ ‘ 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 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 startled boy started to sob and sob, and he couldn’t stop crying. His whole body shook. He looked up at his father and said through his tears, ‘I was planning on committing suicide tomorrow, Dad, because I didn’t think you loved me. Now I don’t need to.’ “ (Chicken Soup for the Soul)
When I was pondering a title for this piece, it lead me to thinking about what matters most to me in life. Life itself, of course, is very precious, because if we’re not alive, then we’re dead, and if we’re dead then, of course, nothing matters.
The most important ingredient to an enjoyable life is love. Love for your family, your mate, your Creator, and your fellowman, and having that love returned. Even if the loving kindness is not returned, we still benefit because we did what was right.
Love is a powerful force. It’s what keeps us alive. When we are faced with things in life that tear at our hearts, it’s love that keeps us going, hoping for a brighter tomorrow. It helps us to bear up under what may be unbearable conditions. There is no emotional growth without love.
The love of one teacher caused tremendous growth to happen in the lives of 176 young men. The study didn’t say what their home-life was like. But it did say that they all attributed their success to the motivation of a very special teacher. Her love made a difference in their lives. She didn’t see their ethnicity, their religion, or anything else that might have prejudiced her. She only saw young boys that needed someone to love them for who they were and believe that they could go on to do great things. Their lives mattered to her and what she did, as a teacher, mattered to them.
Author Merle Shain said that “Loving can cost a lot but not loving always cost more, and those who fear to love often find that want of love is an emptiness that robs the joy from life.”
We love on many levels. We love our mates differently than our children, our extended family, our close friends, our neighbor and so on. Yet if we have love for all these ones we can make a difference in and their lives as well as our own.
We may, or may not save the life of someone on the verge of suicide, but loving kindness might make a persons day more pleasant when stress and disappointments are high. For the most part we will not know the difference that we might have made in the life of someone until years later, if ever, but it doesn't matter, do it anyway.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that if we want our lives to be considered a success, then we must “find the best in others; leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition”, and “to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived”, then we can say our life has been successful.
We would all love to live in a world of peace, with all men living harmoniously. As humans we do not have the power to bring that about on a global scale, because we do not have the power to change the hearts of others. But we do have the power to change our own hearts, thereby making the change we wish to see globally in our own micro worlds where we live everyday. We must treat everyone with loving kindness everywhere we go. Starting in our own home. Lets reflect God’s love and kindness to everyone we meet. Be it by a smile, a warm greeting, a helping hand, an act of kindness, or a gentle touch.
There is no guarantee that people you show love to will love you back, or even that they will treat you right. In fact, it may not change them at all. But do it anyway. The teacher at the beginning of this article took the chance of loving the students she taught. She didn’t just feed them factual information. She gave them knowledge of a different nature. She helped them to learn the potential they had within themselves to be better than their surroundings. She taught them by example how caring about someone could make a difference in their life.
The father saved the life of his son, with just one act of love. No doubt the father learned a powerful lesson from that and went on to give far more expressions of love than he had in the past. Not just to his son, but perhaps others as well.
So, lets ask ourselves….Have I had a positive affect on everyone I’ve had contact with today? Did they feel better when they left than when they came in? What acts of kindness have I done? How can I do better?
Tell yourself that for one week you will be kind and loving to everyone you are around, that you will only say positive, loving things. You will not respond with rudeness or sarcasm. That you’ll take the time to tell your family or friends how important they are to you. And at the end of the week you’ll find that in doing so that not only did others benefit, but you benefited as well. For there is only one thing better than being loved, and that’s loving.