On my first day of kindergarten, my mom gave me some advice.
She told me what her mother told her on the first day of school: when you walk through the doors, don’t worry about making friends. Just focus on finding the girl who looks even more upset about all this than you do. Go over to her and say hello. Smile. Then, you’ll have a friend.
My five-year-old-self was incredulous. Could it be that simple? With a little prompting, I gave it a shot. I walked up to a weeping girl and said, “Hi, I’m Caroline. What’s your name?”
With that, I made my first school friend. It was a serendipitous choice, since she was (is) an excellent visual artist. Back then, I could barely cut in a straight line — OK, that’s still true! — so she’d help me with arts and crafts. She didn’t like to write, so I’d help her with compositions. We saw each other through.
Asking a New Question
I’ve learned so much, and it has paid off, albeit slowly. A Wish Come Clear is approaching a long-held goal of 1,000 email subscribers. (Just 1% of blogs ever do that.)
Even so, it’s been an uphill battle. For a time, I couldn’t write anything without wondering: Is it supposed to be this hard to gain momentum? Is there some key piece that I’m missing?
But I’ve learned that the best answer to THAT question is … another question.
It’s not What am I missing? It’s What do I have to give?
This is the exact same shift my mother and grandmother helped me make in kindergarten. From What if I don’t fit in? to How can I offer comfort and hope?
It’s deceptively simple and surprisingly powerful. Try it on a relationship or problem that’s been nagging you. So much changes when you shift from me to you, from get to give.
What Do I Have to Give?
I love meeting my favorite writers in person, going to talks and signings. Mostly, it’s great fun. But it’s also challenging, because I always carry this fierce longing. I always ache, wondering: Will this dream of authorship ever come true for me?
As Rachel and I conversed in person for the first time, I congratulated her on her success. Without missing a beat, she said, “Thank you! And I’ll be there when it’s your turn.”
In other words, “I’ll be at your book signing, cheering you on when your time comes, because honey, it is coming.”
Tears threatened my eyes. All at once I was back in kindergarten, except now I was the one in need of comfort. Somehow, Rachel knew I needed reassurance, and she offered it without hesitation. Once again, I knew I’d found a friend.
We Only Get What We Give
How does this relate to A Wish Come Clear, to seeing our community grow? Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that growth isn’t something you force, it’s something you humbly facilitate. I’ve also learned that those New Radicals lyrics I sang in high school are spot-on: “Can’t forget, we only get what we give.”
But how to live that out? How to show I care from behind a computer screen? My offering is inspired by my friend Allison.
When Allison was going through chemotherapy, she needed frequent scans to check that her cancer was shrinking. A few days before her scans, she’d post something like this: “Friends, could you send me your concerns, and give me something to pray for? It will help me get through the days ahead.”
Now, this woman had a softball-sized tumor, not to mention an infant son and a loving husband. She had every reason to worry. But she didn’t want to spend her time fearing darkness. She wanted to spend it offering light.
And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
So I’d like to follow Allison’s wise example. If there’s a person or situation in your life that needs love, write as much or as little as you like in the comments section, or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). And I promise to pray, by which I simply mean that I will send love and light your way every day in the weeks ahead.
Finally, I’ll be traveling quite a bit in the next few weeks, and posts will be intermittent until this speaking-intensive season ends. Thank you in advance for reaching out, for sharing your requests …
I’ll carry them with me as I go.
What’s your answer to the question, “What do I have to give?” Join the conversation in the comments below!
Upcoming Speaking Engagements:
March 13-14: Featured Speaker at Kern Autism Society Conference, Bakersfield, CA
April 4-5: Keynote Speaker at Tennessee Adult Brothers & Sisters (TABS) Conference, Nashville, TN
April 23-24: Keynote Speaker at Arc of Illinois Convention, Lisle, IL
Stories around the Web, February 2014:
Guest post at Sarah Bessey: In Which We Fall Together at Her Feet
Leaving Normal: Weekly Column at Autism After 16
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