“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or dehumanized.
If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”
― Haim G. Ginott, Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers
This was my mantra for teaching. I ALWAYS had a copy of it near, and would refer to it often.
I not only believed the statement, but I experienced it to be true. I wish I could say that I made all my students’ lives joyous, but that is not the case. I know there were days and times that I made life miserable for them, and possibly even hurt them.
When I read the quote, I referenced it to life in the classroom, but it really has applications to all of us. This is why, when I took personal things to decorate my office in my new job, it was the first thing I hung on the wall.
As I ponder on my career change to a reporter/writer/journalist, I have come to another frightening conclusion. My personal approach to writing helps create the climate of my community.
I realize I have tremendous power in my fingers as they pound on the keyboard each day. I can make someone’s life miserable or joyous. I am certain that I have already done both.
It reminds me when I first got my driver’s license at 16, and was finally able to drive alone and unsupervised in a car. I will never forget the feeling I had when I sat behind in the driver’s seat. I gripped the wheel at 10 and 2 (like I had been taught) and felt a surge of power rush through me. It suddenly dawned on me that this machine could actually kill someone if not used properly. I almost got out, scared, and not wanting to drive anymore. I didn’t take it lightly.
This writing power I now posses I don’t take lightly either. The stories I most enjoy writing are about people’s lives, their struggles and their triumphs.
I’ve had the privilege of writing about a single mother with a teenage son who has cerebral palsy. Her friends encouraged her to start a GoFundMe to purchase a special wheelchair/bike for his 18th birthday. About two weeks after the article ran, the GoFundMe account goal had been reached. He is getting the special bike.
I’ve had the honor of writing about a family who has endured the loss of a son, but instead of becoming bitter, have made it better for others. They give a scholarship in his name every year. I knew this family personally and was a witness to the shock, grief and subsequent trials they went through. The fundraiser that was this past weekend raised almost double what it has ever raised.
I’ve written about the inspiring story of a senior citizen who earned her high school diploma, hoping others realize that it’s never too late to pursue a goal.
These stories are powerful and have the ability to inspire others to greatness. I am humbled that I get to share them, because people are entrusting me to be their voice. Once they allow me to interview them, they no longer have control of that voice. I have the power to humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
Of course, bad things happen in my community as well, which I have to report on. In these situations, I try not to sensationalize anything, but always tell the truth. My response can sometimes determine whether the situation will be escalated or de-escalated.
How about you, on your job,or as a parent? Can you use Ginott’s quote to make your workplace or your home an enjoyable place to be? Is your daily mood creating sunshine or a rainy day?