“Freedom begins the moment you realize someone else has been writing your story, and it’s time you took the pen from his hand and started writing it yourself.” ― Bill Moyers
In the Nancy Drew mystery series, Nancy always happened upon a great opportunity for an investigation that required her to be cunning, aware and still a normal girl.
When I read Nancy Drew mysteries, I knew I was reading my own story or at least the story I was envisioning for myself. While I’m not a private investigator, I am a mother, and mothers must be cunning, aware and somewhat normal. Yes, those Nancy Drew mysteries were more about me than I might have imagined.
Throughout life, we read stories that we recognize as our own. The victim, the undervalued employee, the artist ready to burst onto the scene, the attorney poised to be the star prosecutor are all people whose stories appear in the news or in books, and they are our stories to stop reading and begin writing.
Throwing rules of grammar out the window (I’m gasping on that one), I encourage you to take the pen in your hand and begin to write.
Other people love to write our stories, to lock us into a place we want desperately to escape and maybe a place we don’t know we need to escape. A girl who giggles a lot and doesn’t make stellar grades might have her story written by others as “the ditzy blonde” who is incapable of achieving much of any real value.
The story of the fella on the football field is usually written by fans, coaches, and hopeful parents as the kid who could go far and do big things in the sport.
The problem with these childhood stories is similar to the problem with fairy tales like Cinderella — so many feet wanting to fill the slipper, but only one that will actually succeed. Do we empower our kids to be who they hope to be? Do we expose them to different ideas for what to do in life? Or do we write their story and leave them to create an ending with hands tied behind their back?
Magicians know how to get out of those ties, but they have an assistant, and so should the rest of us.
When we give a little assistance to people, we empower them to be more than they are and probably more than they knew was available.Someone mentioned recently that they had to attend a training seminar.
It might have been inconvenient, but without it they would have been unable to do their job in the manner required. It’s one thing to be offered opportunities to be better at our jobs, but what about going a step further and giving someone else the opportunity to do our job?
Sitting with a gentleman much older than I, the task before us was to fix a few things on his computer. The teacher in me loves these times to teach and educate … to empower.
You see, I can fix a lot of things on the computer, and often it is easier and faster for me to just do what someone needs than to teach them to do it themselves. I’m not doing them any favors, though, if I don’t at least try to teach them to do whatever it is on their own.
My client might have been frustrated with the process, but to see how to solve a small problem without calling me for help is a huge accomplishment. By teaching, I empower. By simply doing it myself, I erase a little self-worth for the individual.
There are many times that someone doesn’t want to learn how to do something because it’s too involved for where they are, and that’s OK, but if they want to learn shouldn’t we teach? Where could you help someone learn to do for themselves?
If you’ve ever been around small children, it’s easy to think about the pride they exude when they realize they can do something without adult help: stacking blocks, pressing the button on a toy hard enough on their own to make it do what it’s supposed to do, and a little later comes the joy of being able to tie a shoe.
Every time we allow our kids or grandkids to figure out how to do something independently, we are empowering them, building their feelings of confidence. You can come up with activities that tempt you to ‘do it yourself’, and those are the things you might want to simply empower your child, your spouse, your friend, or your parent to do for themselves.
Empowering people means your ego has to take a back seat. They won’t need you quite as much as they did before. Giving up a bit of your ego is not too high a price for allowing another person the dignity of doing it on their own, is it?
Dignity, empowerment, freedom: these are the gifts you can give another person by simply taking a few extra minutes or hours to help them learn to do something for themselves. We are entering the gift-giving season, after all.
Teach someone to:
• Create a budget (and live by it)
• Use a camera to capture memories
• Change a flat tire
• Write a thank you note
• Use the washer and dryer
• Fold clothes
• Choose produce
• Wash a window
• Clean a room (eventually a home)
• Carry on a conversation with different types of people
It’s tempting to do everything for people we love or people we work with, but taking time to teach them to do for themselves is a gift that keeps giving. When they don’t do whatever it is quite the way you think it should be done, allow them the simple joy of knowing that they’ve done it on their own.
Stop writing the story for someone else, and instead offer them a pen and some paper so they might begin writing their own story. After all, don’t you have something you should be writing for yourself?