Even in a dysfunctional family, sometimes, children are exposed to people who impact them in a positive way. The influence of this person grows with the child the same as the memories of neglect and abuse. A sign of affection or a word of encouragement can be the only positive reinforcement they receive.
My childhood was dark and dismal, but I had that positive reinforcement from several people; none greater than my Aunt Susie. She was my bright shining Star! When I was little she made sure I knew how special I was to her. She would come by my grandmother’s house often just to check on me. She stayed on me about having manners and respect for others. Aunt Susie often reminded me that manners will take you where money won’t.
Aunt Susie saw potential in me long before I saw a future for myself. She would say, “You only went to the seventh grade, but you could have been a lawyer”. At that young age, I didn’t know what she meant, but I understood that she thought I was special.
I spent every summer at Aunt Susie’s. She would cook before going to work and remind her children to take good care of me as she went out the door. I always smile when I remember those days.
Like most children, every now and then, I would tell Aunt Susie a little white lie. She never got mad or fussed when I did. She would look me in the eye and say, “There’s something wrong with what you just said”. Then I would start the story over again – with the truth. She would nod, smile and keep moving.
Although Aunt Susie is gone, I cherish those memories and the contribution she made to my life. Abandoned at an early age, it seemed my life would always be dark and dismal, but she encouraged me and spoke a successful future into my life. Today, I share these stories with her daughters.
It is so important that we remember the influence we have over young people. We should never miss an opportunity to encourage and support them, regardless of their family or environment. Yours may be the only encouragement they receive.