A very good friend to many passed away recently. In the brief time I knew him I watched myself change as both an actor and a human being because of him, his words, his spirit, and his belief in me and my potential. These sentiments are dedicated to him. You never know how much someone can affect you in such a brief period of time until you reflect on how they've helped you. Sometimes you wonder if it's possible to fall in love with someone at first meeting. He was the kind of guy to remind you just how possible, and often simple, that is.
Do you know what it's like to believe in something? Given the Holiday season, Santa Claus and Jesus are usually the two names that first come to mind when we think of "believing". Mostly because they're written in lights, decorating lawns, church parking lots, and rooftops. Nativity scenes and depictions of the North Pole have come to define what it means to "believe" at Christmas time. Somewhere in time the meaning of the word shifted and it became something almost mystical. When people ask you, "Do you believe?" there's a great weight attached. It has become synonymous, for many folks, with things that may be working beyond our understanding. And though this element to belief is incredibly vital, there is a large portion of what it means to believe that is neglected this time of year. And that is believing in your fellow man.
We've spent a lot of time believing in people who are not physically present because we've been told that we should. As if Saint Nicholas began his gift giving work because he wanted people to believe in him. But that couldn't be further from the truth. The man set out to give gifts to those in need, to spread the word about peace on earth and good will toward men not because he wanted people to believe in him, but because he believed in them. It's only because people, in our greatest times of need, choose to believe in someone who seems much grander than us that he transforms into a legend. Because we needed him to be a saint, because we needed something to believe in, he became as such. But the mission was never to establish worship, rather it was to give hope. Saint Nicholas, or Santa, set out on a mission to bring people joy, cheer, and hope. Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for food on your table, a roof over your head, and clothes on your back. Hope that, if nothing else, we could be happy.
Considering the amount of time we focus on believing in the seemingly unbelievable, a more important question looms: do you know what it's like to feel believed in? I mean with complete and utter unequivocation, have you truly felt from another human being that they believed in you? In all that you were and all that you could be, beyond all other things they believed that who you were to become was going to be something great. They had great hope for you, great love for you. And for many of us, it's important to believe in the things we cannot see; in things of the spirit and of the heart because it makes us faithful and gives us hope that, despite terrible odds, despite some days being dark and cold, a sun rise awaits; that there are silver linings to those clouds. Over time we learn that seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing. But belief cannot and does not stop here.
Even if you feel you believe in something or someone, how many of us can honestly say that we believe in ourselves? If you don't believe in who you are, you aren't much at all. That's not to say you won't become something but it means that at that moment in time, when you're not believing in yourself, you may feel alone. And it takes someone from the outside to believe in you, to have faith in you, to remind you what you're capable of. It's become incredibly clear that believing in someone you barely even know can make all the difference in the world. But it's difficult to find the confidence to stand and say you truly believe in you. It doesn't come easily and it doesn't come on your own. It works much like love, because it takes love to truly believe in others.
Before you can believe in others you must first believe in yourself. But before you can believe in yourself someone must have believed in you. And love is much the same. Before you can truly love others you must know how to love yourself, but the only way to love yourself is to know what it means to be loved. When someone else believes in you that gives you the confidence to leap over the hurdles life throws at you. Our confidence must come from somewhere, our desire to succeed has to start somewhere. Those who put their faith in you and believed that you are so much more than you give yourself credit for are the ones who help drive you to success. If there is a goal to be reached or an obstacle to overcome, do you truly feel you can do it on your own? Without the help or consolation of others? Even if you view yourself as a soloist, as one who accomplishes all things by your own volition, you're giving yourself too much credit. You have been built up as a confident someone because others, throughout your life, have inspired you, influenced your belief system and helped mold the person you are today. You just haven't considered all the people in your life who have done so. But they're there, I promise.
So perhaps this Holiday season we should strive to put a balance not so much on how we believe, but who and what we believe in. Just as much as it is important for us to believe in the spirit of the season, in the miracles that help us see the light in the darkness, we should also look to our neighbors and, with all of our hearts, believe in them. You never know when that person you meet may be struggling just to tread water and your faith in them, your love for that person, could be what changes their life. Believing in someone else means you're helping them learn to believe in themselves, and when they do the cycle continues. Greater than any gift under the tree or in the stocking is the gift of belief. To believe is truly a blessing. It takes great faith and at times risk. You must risk yourself and give yourself completely to another in order to help them to their feet. Not all of us are ready to stand, but all of us can. And you'll never know just how tall you can stand until you know what it feels like to believe in yourself and your ability to pick yourself up by the helping hand of another.
I am lucky enough to have lived a life filled with folks who have believed in me. People are always asking one another, "Do you believe in God?" as if to find out how to classify them according to their belief system. But why aren't we simply stating, "God believes in you." Whatever that "God" is that you believe in, it is clear that there is an energy of love that courses through our veins and it comes from something that believes in each and every one of us. We all share that very same love. It binds us to each other if we're willing to let it. And if you're willing to acknowledge it, it will help show you that more than it means to believe in something at Christmas is what it means to believe in your fellow man all year through. When you do, you're helping that person become aware not just of who they are, but who they can be, of their infinite potential for goodness and love.
We're all capable of wonderful things, of changing the world and making a stand. But before we can do any of those things we have to do something quite simple. Believe.