"The Value of Believing in Yourself" was one of my favourite children's books as a child.
Published in 1976, it told the inspirational story of Dr. Louis Pasteur, whose unwavering belief in himself and in the concept of germs -- the "invisible enemy" that was making people sick -- allowed him to ignore his many critics and ultimately find a cure for rabies.
My copy of the book was very well-worn from years of reading and re-reading it, but that didn't stop me from giving it to a close friend when I thought she needed it.
We were both in university at the time. She was visiting my house one day, and at some point, she began to tell me that she didn't think she would be successful.
I knew that was ludicrous. My friend was (and still is) a brilliant, energetic, empathetic, amazing human being. What she was missing was self-confidence: she didn't believe in herself, or her tremendous potential.
But I did.
So I gave her my book, and told her why.
I had forgotten all about that particular encounter. In fact, over the last twenty years, I've often wondered what happened to that book.
But I was reminded of where it went yesterday, when a package addressed to me arrived in the mail.
It was the book!*
I was visibly shocked. But as it turns out, the book wasn't for me: it was a gift for my youngest son, Andrew, who'll celebrate his third birthday in two weeks. When Andrew was born, my wife and I asked my friend and her husband if they would be Andrew's Godparents, easily one of the best decisions we've ever made.
On the inside cover of the book, my friend wrote a very touching, very personal note to Andrew. She wrote about the time "your father" had given her the book as a reminder that she needed to believe in herself as much as he believed in her. She wrote that the support had meant a lot to her at the time, and that she was now passing a copy of the book on to him, with the promise that she would always be there to support him like she had been supported.
I gave my friend my book over 20 years ago, and didn't even remember that until yesterday.
You won't always realize how much your actions can affect other people.
But even tiny actions can have enormous impact.
* Actually, it turns out it was a copy of the book. At first, I wasn't sure: the book I was sent looked old, but it was in far better condition than I remember it. So I asked my friend, and she confirmed it was a copy: "my" copy was still at her childhood home, with her parents. She told me she considered giving my son the original copy, but because that one had pages falling out, she opted for something slightly newer.
P.S. If you want to read the book for yourself, or perhaps to your children, you can check-out an e-copy here.
P.P.S. My friend is now a very senior person at a very large, publicly-traded company. I take absolutely zero credit for her tremendous career success, but I'll say this: she may have doubted her potential, but I never did.