44-year-old Letter Returned with Message: Your Actions Ripple
Updated: Jul 15, 2022
Maybe you’ve felt this too, this sense of helplessness. Between the mass shooting of children and teachers in Texas, war in Ukraine, the January 6th investigation, an ongoing pandemic and so on..it feels like there’s little in the world that feels right, or good, or hopeful some days. But a letter I received the other day reminded me of the power we have within each of us to make a difference. I’m not talking about protesting, or voting or organizing or raising money for causes you believe in, (although all of those are actions that could help you feel less powerless).
I’m just talking about what we do in our everyday lives, how our smallest actions ripple out around us, touching people, often in ways we will never learn of. But sometimes, like some karmic sign from the universe, we find out. Case in point.
MY FIRST JOB A person I didn’t know, sent me a message on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago basically saying, “I’m sure you don’t remember, but when I was 13, and you were in your first TV news job in Chattanooga, I wrote you a letter. You wrote me back.” He wrote that he’d saved the letter and was willing to share it with me. I have to tell you, when I was 22-year-old-me, at my first job in Chattanooga, it was one of the toughest years of my life. On my own, in a city where I didn’t know anyone, making mistakes day after day, I remember some mornings wondering how I’d pick myself up and go to work just to make more mistakes. Most days that year, I felt like I was completely failing. I co-anchored the station’s first weekend newscast and often felt so nauseous before I went on the air I wasn’t sure I could do it. Perhaps you remember your first year, your first job. Many of my former students struggle too during their first year of real “adulting” and a learning curve at work that completely humbles you. Looking back on my own experience, I couldn’t imagine that at that time in my life I could have possibly written a letter worth saving; a letter that encouraged a young 13-year-old viewer to pursue his passion. Today, Kevin says that letter kept him going and encouraged him toward his 33-year-CNN career. Turns out, he’s been in TV News his entire career. Here’s the 44-year-old letter I sent him, typed on a manual newsroom typewriter:
DARE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
He was right. I’d forgotten about our letter exchange from so long ago but he didn’t. Kevin’s message arrived on a day when I felt so overwhelmed by the news, powerless to change anything. But that’s not true. We are not powerless, even when we are at a difficult or low point in our life. The letter is just a little evidence of that. Now, I feel pretty certain Kevin would have pursued his career with or without my letter. But I know, I too have saved letters from people early in my career who encouraged me, and made me feel like I could do it, even on the toughest days. Maybe you have as well. I’ve also weirdly saved some rejection letters. Some of those inspired and dared me too. We may not be able to single-handedly stop wars and bullets and hate, but as long as we breathe, even on our worst days, we can make a difference. We get to choose how we spend our days, if we share encouraging words, give someone else a little lift. Kevin just sent me a little confirmation of that. We get to choose to dare ourselves and others around us. So, dare on dear friends. Dare on! It makes a difference.