This story was recently shared with me. It is a beautiful example of the power of positive reinforcement.
One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the class. She told them to think of the nicest things they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. The students completed the assignment, handed in their papers, and left the room. The teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone had said about that individual.
The next day she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. “Really?” she heard whispered. “I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!” and, “I didn’t know others liked me so much,” were most of the comments. No one ever mentioned those papers in class again, and she never knew if they discussed them with their parents or anyone else.
Several years later, one of the students was killed in an accident and his teacher attended his funeral. The funeral home was packed with his friends.
After the funeral, most of Mark’s former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark’s mother and father were there, and said to the teacher, “We want to show you something.” His father took a wallet out of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it,” he said.
Opening the billfold, he carefully removed a piece of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the paper was the one on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.
"Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see, Mark treasured it.”
All of Mark’s former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.” Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.” Marilyn added, “I have mine, too. It’s in my diary.” Then Vicki reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. “I carry this with me at all times. I think we all saved our lists.”
That’s when the teacher sat down and cried. She cried for Mark and for all of his friends who would never see him again.
We forget that life will end one day. And we don’t know when that one day will be. Often people have no idea how we feel about them, and they can’t see the beauty that we see in them. Tell the people you love and care for that they are special and important. Help them to see themselves through your eyes. Your words can be life changing.