Adult "others" who take the time to know a child and to share insights, thoughts or encouragements, can be extremely influential in shaping the identity of the child and in opening up possible paths, opportunities and potential that otherwise might remain untapped. The power of possibilities, when reflected to a child in context of a child's aptitudes, can open the world, literally.
Lynne Cox was honored with a toast by Mikhail Gorbachev for her role in opening up the Soviet Union's borders after 38 years of being closed. As a nine-year old girl, swimming outside alone for hours on a cold stormy day, the mother of the fastest girl on the swim team told her that she might someday swim the English Channel. What a seed to plant! Five years later her swim coach thought she might find an opportunity with ocean distance swim challenges rather than in her California swim team pool. After being part of the first group of kids to swim the Catalina Channel (in just over 12 hours), the next day the 14 year-old remembered the little seed planted years earlier and realized she could pursue the dream of swimming the English Channel.
At 15 she broke the world record for swimming the English Channel, beating the men's record by 20 minutes. Another swimmer beat her record six weeks later and she returned and broke the new record by 20 minutes. She didn't stop thinking about what she could do with her talents after breaking two world records while still in high school. The idea of how to live her life imagining and embracing with confidence possibilities way beyond what others would envision for her was ingrained and she has continued to break boundaries and barriers and create unity in the process. She might not have had such a life, made such an impact on individuals and countries, nor realized all that might be possible just for the thinking of it had not two significant adults noted what possibilities might be made with her aptitudes. She was fortunate in having parents who not only paid attention when she dreamed about her possibilities, but supported her in realizing them.
She has not stopped thinking of how she can use her talents and gifts to make a difference in this world. What she has done is an inspiration and you can read about it here and here, or read about the details of her amazing accomplishments in her book, Swimming to Antarctica. Little did that mother know that when she took the time to notice the uniqueness of another child and what might be made of a set of talents, that her comment as a seed would someday grow to be the persistent vine of an idea that helped tear down the walls of the Cold War.
How incredible is the power of others in shaping the lives of our children. Little seeds planted in little minds by caring others...