If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.
I just watched ‘It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,’ a movie about Mr. Rogers. It was a fine movie and I found myself getting emotional more than a few times. Tom Hanks did a fantastic job—almost ‘channeling’ Fred Rogers.
Your answer to this fundamental question will affect everything in your life…
…how Fred Rogers was fully present with people. It was as if he brought his full attention and focus on whoever he was with—making them feel like they were the only ones that mattered. Even when speaking to the camera, it was as though he was focusing on one person. Hanks captured this well in the movie to the point that I felt kinda ‘seen’ from the big screen. My wife got to meet Mr. Rogers at a book signing and recounts how he would always come out from behind the table when a child came up with their parent and Mr. Rogers would squat down and fully engage with each child. I guess the line moved at a snail’s pace as a result.
I must say this leaves me inspired and somewhat convicted. One of the things lacking, and to me seems to be diminishing, is people being fully present with each other even when they are together. Even while eating together, many people are on their smart devices—effectively splitting their attention from who’s in front of them to people who are not. I am sometimes guilty of this.
But showing up is more than just being there. Bringing yourself fully present is a discipline. Showing up necessitates being open—that willingness to hear and see even what you would prefer not to hear and see. Showing up requires you to be fully engaged and focused and curious. When we show up for others it means that the person you are with feels like the most important person on the planet. Someone who is worthy of your undivided attention and who ends up feeling actually seen.
We have a one sentence description of our Impact Training on the website which defines it as “Transformative engagement with others.” This captures the essence of showing up and is also a good description of what can happen when people fully engage with each other; and that is transformation. It’s always astounding to me how much of the value transpires from people sharing with each, spurring each other, giving feedback to each other.
In our work, we believe every person can be a catalyst for change—an agent of transformation. We have noticed though that this requires them coming out of their comfort zones. It involves showing up, being fully present, being fully engaged. It means participating in ways that may be currently beyond what they are used to or even competent in.
While I believe that to be true, I once again reflect on what I know about Fred Rogers. One of his main ‘competencies’ was his decision to care deeply and to be curious with those he was with. Curiosity and caring are foundational ways of being that go a long way in making a difference. Nevertheless, even this necessitates courage, because caring and curiosity can invite us beyond our depth and what we may be comfortable with.
So, as we enter this Holiday Season, my exhortation to you is to practice showing up—being fully present with others. Be curious, caring and courageous. Set aside the distracting devices and be all there with who you are actually with. When it’s all said and done, doing this essentially says, “You matter and I love you.”