This Rocky Life: Building People


I remember sitting on the floor of my classroom, during story time with my grade two teacher. Mrs. Gardi was so eloquent at reading a story, engaging her audience and commanding attention in a very organized, peaceful and interesting way.

When I was younger, whenever I was asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would say that I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be just like Mrs. Gardi. I felt listened to, cared about, important and significant in the world, whenever I was in Mrs. Gardi’s class. It was exactly how I wanted other people to feel.

Unfortunately, that was in stark contrast to my experience in kindergarten. Apparently, I was either the tallest or one of the tallest kids in the class. I felt like I was expected to do and be more than other students in the class, because maybe I looked older or more mature.

I felt misunderstood, sad, not cared about and not good enough, in kindergarten. It was an awful way to start my education. This was exactly what I never wanted any other person to feel.

Other the years, I have come to understand that teachers don’t teach students, they build young people. Coaches don’t coach teams, they build players. Employers don’t train employees, they build employees. Parents don’t raise children, they build future adults.

Whenever we see individuals who are struggling, it can often be related to the fact that some of them were knocked down, instead of built up. They may have been put down, instead of encouraged. They may have been belittled, instead of empowered. They may have been spoiled, instead of guided.

I feel blessed that Mrs. Gardi renewed my faith in teachers, and in me, after experiencing a teacher who may have been dealing with her own issues, problems, stress and anxiety. Maybe how I felt in kindergarten had nothing to do with me at all; maybe I was able to pick on the chaotic energy of someone who maybe had too much on her plate or was struggling in her own personal life, in some way.

All I know is that maybe that experience in kindergarten was actually good for me. Maybe it was how I learned to be so compassionate and empathic toward others. Maybe that is why I stand up for the underdog; attempt to protect those who have not quite developed their own strength and assertiveness or those who are struggling with low self-value or worth.

Although I am currently not a teacher, in the traditional sense of the word, my experiences have allowed me to be in a position of sharing information, knowledge, tips, tools, wisdom or stories that have hopefully contributed to building people up, in some way.

Even though I am quite assertive at calling people out on things that are hurtful, correcting someone who may overstepping their boundaries, addressing those who take advantage of others, or letting people know when their behaviours, words or actions are detrimental in some way, I do what I do with the full intention of improving their lives or the lives of people around them.

If we think of ourselves as a builder of people, we wouldn’t allow our children to be ungrateful or unappreciative, we would make people earn what they have, we would have standards that our network of coworkers would all be expected to pull our own weight, we would inspire children to learn while also being respectful of those who are learning at a different pace.

If we were building people, we would call people out on disrespectful actions in the workplace, we would draw a line of personal rules and boundaries so that we would recognize when someone is taking advantage of us. If we were a builder of people, we would teach our children how to be organized, productive, respectful and appreciative, by establishing consequences and expectations of their behaviour.

Although this all sounds utopian on paper, it can be a general guideline for living, if we are willing to try. Are we a builder of people or do we drag people down? Are we correcting behaviour that is toxic, so that those around us learn how to be socially contributive or we enabling a pattern of unacceptable behaviour that will perpetuate unhealthy lives, homes, families, spaces or workplaces?

Are we someone who allows unhealthy energy into our bubble or do we work on either improving, changing or removing the toxins from our lives? If we were to ask the people who spend the most time with us, would they say we are a builder of people or not?

With our precious little time on this planet, each and every one of us can play a very important role. If we ignore, bury, allow, enable, encourage or stay quiet about toxic situations, people or behaviour, we are being passive about the opportunity to build people.

If we all decided that in our daily actions, words and behaviours we will take an active role in building people, what would that look like? What would we need to do differently, if anything? What can we continue to do?

What would our world look like if we all made this decision to be builders of people? I guarantee it would be a world that would look much brighter. Perhaps, it is time for us to join today in this effort.

Maybe those toxic people in the world did not have anyone like Mrs. Gardi to build them up. Maybe we are it….

‘Nearly all problems of human behavior stem from our failure to ensure that people live in environments that nurture their well-being.’ ~ Anthony Biglan, The Nurture Effect: How the Science of Human Behavior Can Improve Our Lives and Our World

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