You Do the Work, You Need the Appreciation

Cary Larson-McKay

You Do the Work, You Need the Appreciation

I heard a theory that every individual from birth to the time we give our final farewells will come in contact with 10,000 people. Some of you will be in contact with scores more than that! I think this is especially relevant as many of us are back in school for a new year greeting new children into your programs, meeting the families and getting to know them, and sharing with the community. And as you do this you will be coming into contact with more people than you probably imagine. You are people-machines outreaching to those around you. You see, I believe that your work is not just about people, but you are in the “business” of “people.” Very important people.

And a number those VIPs, at least according to the theory, will have a life-altering change because of you. They will have a different final life outcome because of their contact with you.

Think about that for a moment.

You will have a PROFOUND and SIGNIFICANT impact on some of those people with which you have contact!

And, it doesn’t stop there.

You see, even if those deeply affected people never consciously realizes the impact you had on them, the impact continues on. Those changed persons are going to perpetuate the change that you have caused in those lives in the lives of other people.

Even if we just use the number 10 to figure this out, those 10 people that you affected will in turn affect another 10 then those 10 will affect another 10 and another. Because of you.

If you have been following this, 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 = 10,000 people whose lives will be altered and changed. Because of you.

Wow! You are a powerful person. You are a powerful group.

Want to know who those people are who you’ve affected so deeply?

Of course, you do.

It would be nice to know who they are! That would make your impact even more real to you. Maybe help you appreciate just how important you and your work are to our world.

As nice as it would be, I have to tell you, you’ll probably only hear of two or three, and all the others will remain anonymous. Sad but true, most of the time those you have impacted go unrecognized by you. But, whether or not you actually know when your power has been used or by whom is irrelevant. It has happened and you may never see or know the long-term effects. Because of this unknown factor it is difficult to become intentional and consistent in building impactful relationships. You do not get the feedback that makes your work more visionary.

People who work with and on behalf of children are an exceptional group, and as you have decided to serve others in your work — you are an exceptional person. That puts you directly among those, who, by design, deliberately have direct influence on others. You do work that is specifically organized to have an impact—on the children, their families and the community. That is the very reason your impact may never be known to you. Often your work is not appreciated by those outside of our field. Your impact is dispersed among all you touch in the many different ways you serve.

For my purpose, I am going to define service as “what you – all of you – DO.” In essence, I am going to try to give some form to your impact on the lives you touch hoping you will recognize how deeply you effect the lives of those with whom you come in contact.

I want to spend a minute and ask you to recall one moment – just the moment – that you realized someone affected your life. Not the event itself (that is easier to remember), but your realization of the impact. How—when—why did you realize it?  

What were you discovering?

Now—I want you to think about a moment when you understood that you affected someone’s life. Just one moment. Again how, when, why?

I am hoping you discover something different about these two moments of realization, and appreciate who you are, what you do, and what we as a profession accomplish. You see, in all likelihood, both of those moments were reactions to a need.

There are no quick answers here. It takes great focus, time and courage to dig deeply into the needs of another, but this is the work you do on a daily basis.

Think of what awaits you, of all of us. If you just do 10 things (we have been dealing with the power of 10 today), or even one thing (but for our discussion here we will use the 10 things for the sake of argument) think of what those 10 people will gain. Then think of the 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 that we talked about earlier, ten thousand lives.

You have the potential to affect the lives of thousands of people in significant and wonderful ways, because you are who you are, thousands of children and their parents might have learned how to live a better more fulfilled life, because of you.

The work you do—the way you live your life—that is significant! Truly significant in a deep and meaningful way.

You change the world—one person at a time.

As a group you all probably have a strong sense of humility—as I have found this to be a common characteristic of early childhood professionals. I am very much aware that many of you simply cannot fathom that you affect that many peoples’ lives for the good. Yes, you do the work. You know it is valuable. But, you often do not take the time or the credit for the huge changes that you help become reality. I am sure you feel good about the work you do. You believe you are contributing to the community, but you often might not recognize the extent of your impact.

While most of you can think of endless ways to make your work better, more effective or more meaningful. I am asking you to add to this usual way of thinking to include an appreciation of yourself and the work you do for the impact it has. Add the conscious act of thinking deeply and creatively about how you add to another person.

Think back to that person or event that changed your direction and the directions of those around you. Appreciate that person. Now it is your turn to be that person. To be that intentional about your outreach. To be that creative about how you are that change maker. To be that open with yourself. To be that open to others.

And, mostly to appreciate who you are in a world that depends on those who change it for the better. You are needed now more than ever.