One day Thomas Edison came home and gave a paper to his mother. He told her, “My teacher gave this paper to me and told me to only give it to my mother.”
His mother’s eyes were tearful as she read the letter out loud to her child: Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers for training him.
Please teach him yourself.
After many, many years when Edison’s mother had died and he was now one of the greatest inventors of the century, while looking through old family things he saw a folded paper in the corner of a drawer in a desk and opened it. On the paper was written: Your son is addled [mentally ill]. We won’t let him come to school any more.
Edison cried for hours and then he wrote in his diary: “Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child that, by a hero mother, became the genius of the century.”
Like Edison, but with fewer tears I cried too as I read this story which has circulates largely on the web lately. But most of all I thought deep and hard about what it takes to be called a hero.
It takes no effort at all to speak what we see in our children, husband, friend or colleague. Words like “you are weak, you don’t have a backbone, you are not like Sussie or John, you never going to learn that, you are a loser…….etc escape our mouths fluently, but can we see and voice the unseen?
Performance is easily seen, potential on the other hand stays hidden within us waiting for the right eyes and lips to unlock it.
Yes, words are there to be spoken, but the choice of words we decide to speak is definitely on us. I wonder how our daily lives and conversations will look if we spoke and encouraged people’s potential rather than their practice? That’s what vision is right? Championing, pointing out in people who they can become?
I know for sure that speaking to the potential in people rather than the behavior would increase the “Thomas Edison’s” in our world. We will have more genius and fulfilled spouses, children, friends and colleagues. I know for definite also that the world would be a place less insecure to live in and much more generous in making room for each other’s gifting.
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” Goethe