When we get to the point where we notice, realize and internalize the capabilities we have within ourselves to be a positive resource for others, why do so many of us stop?
The Art Of Passive Inspiration
Author’s Note: What I’m about to say is going to make me sound like one of those parents who thinks his daughter is the greatest child in the world. She is. Get over it.
This past Friday was my daughter Addison’s last day at the infant and toddler daycare at our local high school. First of all, I can’t believe that she’s already “graduating” something. I mean she’s only 22 months old. So it seems to me like this is all happening a little too soon. Secondly, I’m blown away by the effect she has had on the lives of others.
When we got home on Friday, one of the things that the students had given her was a saucer sled all signed with little heart-warming messages. (For clarification, this daycare program is also a class, so it’s a group of students that are among those taking care of her throughout the day). As I read through each snippet, I was genuinely touched by some of the things that had been said.
There was one student that commented on the fact that every time she came in in the morning, Addie knew her name and said “hi” (which is extra phenomenal when you consider I’m terrible with names). There was another that said that even though she might be having a bad day, she could look forward to seeing Addie during daycare class because it always turned her day around. Another that said they loved Addie’s hugs. Another that talked about her smile. And countless messages that mentioned how sweet and happy Addie is (which, again, I don’t know where she gets it from because Emily and I really feel as though we’re stressed out most of the time).
Having dropped Addie off at the school a few times, I’ve seen first-hand how her presence affects those around her. The moment she walks in the door, faces, attitudes and emotions lift and brighten.
And apart from school experiences, I’ve actually seen her make someone’s day better just by saying “hi” to them randomly in a store or on the street or in a restaurant. We’ve even had people who specifically tell us so. Complete strangers who have never met myself, my wife or Addie until that moment.
In short, at 22 months (and certainly well before that) Addie has the ability to make moments happen. To open up hearts. To make people smile and to make them genuinely happy, if even for a moment.
And she doesn’t even know she’s doing it.
What Is Passive Inspiration?
Now, just to be clear, I’m well aware that part of why she has this effect on people is because she’s a toddler. Though it would be wonderful, it’s difficult for an adult to just light up someone’s world without even knowing they’re really doing so. I’m also quite aware that a lot of what I’ve just said in this post is a Dad being a Dad and that if you’re a parent you’re probably rolling your eyes, and if you’re not a parent you’ve probably checked out by now.
What I’m really trying to get at with this is the fascinating nature of what I call “passive inspiration”. For one reason or another, Addie just makes other people happy without even knowing that she’s doing it. Again, a lot of that is brought about by the nature of being a toddler, and the natural effect that has on people. But it’s also her character – saying “hi”, remembering names, hugs, dancing, chatting up a storm, singing and learning songs with others.
And appearing to genuinely have an interest in other people.
So the obvious question to ask is “what happens when she realizes she’s doing it”?
Can Passive Inspiration Last?
Eventually, she’s going to realize she’s doing these things. Or she’s going to realize that she could do them. At that point she’s going to transition into the capability for “active inspiration”. What happens then? Will she continue to have this effect on people? Will she stop trying to (even though she wasn’t even trying to before)? Or, an interesting thought, will she keep not trying to, aware that that’s what she had been doing before?
I really don’t know. In truth, I hope she realizes what she does to people and works harder to positively affect even larger amounts.
But in observing this, it’s clear to me that this must be something we all go through. Perhaps at the very beginning, in our earliest years, we’re filled to the brim with passive inspiration. Bringing smiles to faces and making days brighter. Obviously, at some point, we transition out of that into a capability for “active inspiration”. And, clearly, we don’t all pursue it. As we become more and more self aware we become less and less aware of others and their needs or their wants or their interests. We get so caught up in the stresses of our own days that we just don’t seem to have any time to pause and think about the stresses of others.
When we get to the point where we notice, realize and internalize the capabilities we have within ourselves to be a positive resource for others, why do so many of us stop? Why don’t we, at the very least, recognize what we’ve done? Why don’t we find out how we were doing it, and work to do it better?
What We Should Be Doing
This is part of how Addie has inspired me – and, indeed, continues to inspire me – since the day she was born. Every day, seeing what she can do without even knowing she’s doing it, I’m reminded of what I should be doing, because I know I have the power to do it.
I’m grateful for that reminder. I want to be a better person.
And I want to be the kind of person my daughter doesn’t even know she is.
That is going to take some work.
Have you observed passive inspiration in your life? What effect did this have on other people? What effect did it have on you? Did you learn something from it? Share below!