My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Leddy, had us students do something that I have never forgotten. She called it a “car wash.” Every week one of us would be the “car,” and the other students would form two lines in front of the car. One by one, zigzagging from one side to the other, the car would go to each person in the “wash” line, and that person would whisper into the “car’s” ear something good about them — something that the speaker liked, respected, appreciated or admired about them. I don’t remember many of the things my fellow students said to me. I remember one guy said that I was his third girlfriend (whatever that meant). I remember that the boy I had a crush on told me that he liked playing sports with me (I was a major “tom-boy”…and still am.) Someone else liked my smile. Someone else said that she noticed that I tried to be nice to everyone. The details of those individual encounters is fuzzy, but the memory of how I felt after having been washed in all that good will and kindness is still precious to me.
I introduced this activity to my cohort of fellow humane educators when we had our Residency one year, and the faculty liked it so much that they used it as the closing activity for Residency. (They’ve modified it now so that students write down something about their fellow students during the week, so that everyone has something positive to take home from everyone else — a more meaningful way to do it.)
For my 25th birthday, my husband wrote down 25 things he loved about me and put them in a simple handmade book — one item per page, one page per hour of the day. It was one of the best gifts he ever gave me; I still have it these 17 years later.
One New Year’s Day, just after midnight, I sat around with a small group of friends in my co-housing community, and we each took turns sharing an intention that we had for each of the others. When we finished, everyone in that circle felt loved, appreciated, respected, more confident, more hopeful about the future — and more powerful about helping shape that future. I’ve never forgotten that night.
These are just a few examples of the times that sincere, authentic, kind words have helped shape my view of myself and have affected the next steps on my life’s journey. Yes, it’s important to look within for all those important qualities of joy, confidence, meaning, respect, love, and so on. We can’t rely on others for our self-perception, and it can be incredibly detrimental to pay too much attention to what others say about us. But I also think that it’s important that we help serve as a reflection for others so that they can more easily break through the static of culture and personal history that get in the way of their being able to see their own good and value.
Look for the good in the people around you and speak it. You will both be empowered by it.
Filed under: compassionate communication, MOGO Habits, MOGO Mini-Tips | Tagged: communication, kindness, MOGO Habits, positive choices, self-concept, self-perception, values | Leave a comment »