You Are Doing A Great Job

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

This little nugget of wisdom came to me today after helping out at the children’s theatre class my mom teaches after school on Wednesdays (I’m home in Las Vegas with this week, which means I get to participate in that — it’s something that doesn’t happen very often).  And, admittedly, my mom sort of brought it to me.  We were standing on the curb afterward waiting for the parents to come pick up their kids, and my mom pointed to one of the little girls standing alone on the edge of the sidewalk.  “Go tell her she did a good job today.”

Honestly, I felt ashamed for not noticing this girl on my own.  Usually, I pride myself on my ability to identify what my choir director at USD used to call the “lost little lambs” and make them feel  like they belong.  But today, for whatever reason, maybe because I was preoccupied making sure none of the kids wandered off on their own, or because I was enjoying a conversation with one my favorite former theatre teachers who now works with my mom, or because I was too consumed by the endless parade of thoughts in my own head, I hadn’t really seen her standing there, shyly rocking on her heels and wheeling her little rolling backpack around in tiny circles on the cement.  

I walked over to her and said, “Hey!”  I smiled warmly and deftly avoided the use of her name because I embarrassingly couldn’t remember it.  “You did a really great job today, I just wanted to let you know.”


“Oh yeah.  I could see you really knew what you were doing up there.”  Whether I could or couldn’t seemed irrelevant at this point — there were somewhere between thirty and forty kids to pay attention to in that class, so I may have forgotten exactly how this particular girl performed.  But she smiled anyway, and I felt happy to have cheered her.  When I walked away, she’d stopped moving her backpack.  I might have been imagining it, but she seemed to be standing a little straighter.

“I try to connect with all of them,” my mom was telling me in the car on the way home.  “There’s just so many, you know?  I try to make eye contact, or compliment them, or something to show them I care.  It’s a hard age.  And she’s new this year… You know she probably got in the car this afternoon and said, ‘Mom, they told me I did really great today!’”

It was that last sentence that made me want to cry, that made me think I’d somehow stumbled upon a Truth of human nature:

All any of us ever really wants or needs is for someone to tell us we’re doing a good job.

Life can be rough sometimes.  And lonely and scary and uncertain and sad.  I think of where I am in my job search right now, how every rejection stings and all I want to hear is that I’ll be a good fit for something, that I’m good enough to do something, that in the meantime, I’m doing just fine for myself right now and that everything will be okay.  And then my heart hurts just as much to think of the millions of people who have jobs and slave away at them, day in and day out, without so much as a pat on the back, or the mother who spends all day cooking for her family and her husband doesn’t even mutter a simple, “Thank you.”  Or the talented actress/baseball player/singer/artist/writer who still suffers from paralyzing self-consciousness and feelings of inferiority.  

We all need to know that we’re doing a good job.  That our best really is good enough, that there is, in fact, no such thing as “good enough.”  There’s just “good,” which you are because you are alive and you are trying, every minute of the day, to be the best you can be.  We need to know that a bad day does not equal a bad life, and that at any given moment, there is so much more right with you than wrong with you, because you are alive and you are breathing and you matter and you are loved by your family and your friends and somewhere, right now, there’s a little kid who probably thinks you’re awesome, who looks up to you and admires you more than you could possibly know.  You need to know that you are doing the best job, in fact, of just being you, because you’re the only one of you out there in this world.  

Life is messy and the future is uncertain.  But it’s somehow so much easier to deal with when we reach out to others, and accept the hands offered to us.  

This week, tell someone — or, better yet, more than one someone — they’re doing a great job.  Tell your mom, your sister, your best friend, your teacher, your students, your Starbucks barista, your waiter, the sales associate who just got yelled at by that frazzled customer.  

And remember that you are, too.

You are doing a great job.  Keep it up.  :)