In my work with children in over three decades as an educator, I often facilitate a leadership class that includes a lesson on the value of cultivating a positive attitude. I tell my students that they create the quality of their teachers.
As students, I explain, when they come to activities prepared and with a bright affect, when they bring their materials, when they sit up and are attentive (and put away their phones), they start a positive chain of interaction with the people leading their classes and activities.
Assuming the teacher is doing the same, the back and forth exchange of energy is positive. It builds and fuels a level of enthusiasm that is as important as the material being shared. Looked at in this way, each of us has a significant influence on our relationships with others. We may say things like, “It’s out of my hands,” but is it really?
A positive attitude has a way of opening doors.
In my leadership class, I also share the work of Stephen Covey, specifically his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” In terms of the lesson on creating the quality of one’s teachers, I introduce Habit #6, known as “Synergize.”
“Synergy is better than my way or your way. It’s our way.” -Dr. Stephen R. Covey
Consider this story shared with me by a member of a kindness class I facilitated for adults over 10 years ago:
“My husband has been in England for the last week and a half, organizing the funeral for his 85-year old birth mum (they were reunited 13 years ago) that was finally held yesterday. She had lived her entire working-class life within a small 3-mile area of Bristol. But within that small area, the ripples of who she was and how she was in the world were astonishingly evident at her funeral.
“The church was packed and filled to the rafters with mourners. There was the girl from the local coffee shop and the check-out clerks from the Sainsbury’s grocery store. There were employees from the architectural firm she used to work for over 25 years ago who hadn’t seen her since, but when they heard about Esme’s death, they all showed up.
There was the butcher and also the taxi driver who’d sometimes drive her places since she’d never learned to drive a car. There were college students she’d take under her wing and neighbors to whom she had lent a helping hand. Her doctor was there and so was the man who owned the local dry cleaners. All her old lady friends came in walkers and wheelchairs. My husband said in spite of the fact that his heart was breaking, it also soared to see so many people come to honor the kind of person that his mother was.
“They were all there because of the way Esme was in the world. Her kindness to others was so constant and true that it spread throughout the tiny area of Clifton in Bristol where she had lived.
“Esme wasn’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. She didn’t buy people things or give them money or stuff; she only gave of herself: a smile, a laugh (she had a great sense of humor!) a kind word. How she treated everyone must have meant something because the church was packed and filled to the rafters with mourners…”
Hopefully, the life of Esme inspires you to cultivate a positive attitude when you connect with someone today.
I also encourage you to spend the 12 minutes of your life it will take to watch Hector Elizondo read to you the lovely children’s story “Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch.”