“Belief gives you the power to achieve the extraordinary.” – Chris Powell
It was a warm Saturday morning in April in 2015. The entire family was engaged in preparing for the book signing of Lessons from the Roof of Africa. There was a nervous but excited buzz in the air. On one of a hundred or so in-and-outs through our front door, my daughter and husband noticed a three-inches wriggling wet noodle laying miserably near our doorstep.
Upon closer inspection, they noticed it was a newborn (emphasis on new) kitten, no doubt a result of the labor of a black cat that roamed our neighborhood, pregnant every couple of months. The little wet ball was somehow alive, but barely so. Our neighbors across the street said the mother was there with a 2nd kitten from her litter of two, caring and watching over the other, but having abandoned this one at our door, likely because she thought it wouldn’t survive.
My son had been on his way down south from Orlando and, when he arrived, he insisted on checking in on the kitten. After much panicking (his admission), they packed the kitten into a towel-lined shoebox to keep it toasty and we headed to the event. Throughout the whole event, my son was on edge about whether the kitten would stay warm enough in the topless box. Both he and my daughter assumed they'd arrive home to prepare a small-scale burial. But when we arrived, by some miracle, the kitten was still alive. After a supply run for milk, a comically small bottle, and some necessary supplies, my son attempted to start feeding it. It didn't quite work out. It was either not hungry enough or too weak to drink.
My son had only come down for the day, so he packed up a larger container, stuffed it with towels, and drove the kitten to the veterinarian on his way back north. Things looked a bit dire. The vet explained, “This kitten is practically dead. There’s not much you can do here and it wouldn't be your fault. I don't want you to be disappointed, so just keep that in mind.” The vet refused to charge him for the visit and deworming medication.
Deciding then and there that he was going to at least try, he fed it every four hours for 24 hours for a week, then moved it up to six. Somehow, the little thing had enough fight in him to keep trying. He called us often to update, explaining to us that he didn't think he would make it. But despite his words, his behaviors were charged with belief. He didn't see the futility of it and instead just kept going through the motions. Not only did this ill-fated kitten survive -- he thrived. He was believed into health and life.
The power that comes from believing in another can be life-changing.
My little cousin Rebecca (co-author of Coaching Lessons from Alexander Hamilton if you read it) was struggling with math around 3rd grade, as are so many other 3rd graders. Her parents solicited the help of a tutor, Karina Benites, to be exact. It just so happens coincidentally that Karina is the daughter of a dear life-long friend of mine. Karina was a new teacher at the time, somewhat of a genius in math, and the perfect match for Rebecca.
It just so happens that as most of us do, there was a time when Rebecca, perfectly capable of doing anything she sets her heart to, had just grown frustrated. So much so that she began to cry during this particular session. In what I can only describe as a stroke of genius, Karina asked Rebecca to retreat to her room and to come back as a third grader. Rebecca complied, dusted herself off and came back and just showed up differently. She got into her assignment, did what she was asked and has since then (now in 7th grade) kicked ass at Math ever since. No surprise Karina won teacher of the year for her county in her very first year of teaching. Imagine if all our teachers had this kind of belief in the children in their classrooms!
What do you think could have happened there? As someone who’s been on the receiving end of others’ beliefs when I didn’t have much belief in myself, I know how powerful it is to have someone breathe belief into a place within us where it didn’t exist before. I had some amazing teachers, coaches, friends and my kids, who have done that for me for which I am eternally grateful.
The truth is it’s SO EASY for us to breathe life into people’s dreams, into believing in others until they start to believe in themselves.
Let’s be the the nurturers and teachers of the world. Let’s breathe life into any belief-vacuums people may be experiencing because you’d be surprised how one little comment, one kind gesture and one kind word can propel someone to that next level which can set them on a new positive course that will reset the rest of their life.