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12 Days of Thanksgiving: I

Investments.

I’ve been thinking during these 12 days about how blessed I am by people who have chosen to make an investment in me–parents, mentors, friends, clients. The confidence and encouragement of others has such a powerful and long-lasting impact. Sometimes it takes others showing that confidence before we can believe it ourselves.  The investments of others are gratitude-worthy, to be sure. But, beyond that, I was reminded last week about what a blessing it also is to invest IN someone else as well. After all, good investments bring a return.

I had a conversation with a friend last week about a simple phone call. I didn’t know the other party, but felt as if I did to hear my friend describe the encounter. A man was calling to inquire about job opportunities–not always an easy task for someone who’s been in the workforce for a long time or in these challeging economic times. During the course of the phone conversation, with a few well-placed comments and sincere reflections, this friend really blessed the man on the other end of the line. What’s interesting is how exhuberant my friend was to talk about the encounter. How much the conversation prompted his own recollections and gratitude for the impact this man had made on him many years ago.

Two things struck me. One is how “easy” it is to turn something difficult for someone into a day-changer, even a life-changer. My friend lost nothing but a few seconds of time in communicating some things that perhaps gave this man renewed confidence. It requires so little from us to bless others. The one thing it does take is paying attention. Noticing. Reflecting. This conversation required thinking with sincerity about an individual’s impact, thinking with gratitude about a person’s role in another’s life. That’s the hard part sometimes. It’s so easy to live only in self-awareness, oblivious to the needs or even strengths of others around us. Yes, noticing those things requires an investment of our time and energy and emotional space. But, the return allows us to reap the benefit of soaking up what another human has to offer, the benefit of really experiencing some person or place rather than simply pushing past them to get to the next thing on the list. It made me want to think more carefully about the seemingly insignificant conversations I have each day, and infuse them with a desire to show that person their worth. That type of investment has so much power, and to wield it is a privilege.

The other lesson from this friend’s conversation was how much the act of blessing another person prompts us to see our own blessings. Giving is such an odd little mathematics-defying equation. When we give, we so often get in multiplied measure in return. When we show confidence and value to others, we more easily embrace it ourselves. When we recognize the amazing qualities of others and their impact, we are reminded of the blessings WE have received. We are reminded that people and experiences ARE blessings. It tells me that if I’m feeling gratitude-challenged, perhaps the first step to recovery is blessing someone else.

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