Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Discovering Value

Michelangelo said, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." I once knew a great teacher who did this with the most pained students. He would reach into their hearts and see their wonder, the wonder they themselves missed, and elegantly call it out of them. So appreciative were that that years later they would track him down just to thank him for his kind efforts. What do you see in others? Angels? Wonder? Genius? What do you see in yourself?

I read recently about a woman in New York who found a Rufino Tamayo painting in the garbage that was expected to sell for around a million dollars. Anyone of us can look around and see wasteland. Our newpapers report the worst in human nature everyday. I hear compliants and criticism all the time, but what interests and excites me the most are the unheralded heroes who look for the treasure in others. I like to hear and read about the guy who sees the kid who cannot read and teaches him how, or the gal who sees the potential in another and reflects it back so that the other can see it in themself. This is what makes us feel most valued as human beings. This, in turn, raises our community value, by creating goodwill, and it's hard to put a pricetag on that.

Of course, seeing the value in others isn't always easy. We have to sometimes see potential that has not yet been developed. We have to see the value that is possible with encouragement and small advancing steps. We have to see like Kyle MacDonald did when he saw a little red paperclip and with it a house. Sound crazy? Not to Kyle. He got onto e-bay and traded his little red paperclip for a fish pen. He quickly swapped the pen for a smiley face door knob, and the door knob for a camping stove. The camping stove he traded for a generator and that for a keg of beer and a party, then the keg for a snow mobile. Through some publicity he generated, his trades grew increasingly larger until after just 14 trades he owned a house.

Now, how many of us would see a tiny red paperclip and think we could do that? He said that along the way he had a great time, met some really neat people and helped some of them achieve their dreams, while he achieved his. If he could achieve all this with an almost worthless paperclip, and, of course, a valuable idea, solid follow-through, a whole lot of enthusiasm and good fun, what, I wonder, could he do with, say, a roll of duct tape? In the end, he donated his house to charity and the tiny town that embraced him. Later they made him honorary mayer, while he made scores of friends and some remarkable lifetime memories.

So, if Michelangelo can see angels in hunks of rock, a woman a million dollar painting in a garbage heap, and Kyle MacDonald a house in a paperclip, what do you see around you? That's the question I have been asking myself today and the truth is, I am beginning to realize that there might be a lot more there than first meets the eye. I am beginning to realize, too, that the potential I am beginning to see in others also exists in me. In fact, uncovering that treasure could be the greatest discovery of all.

One Red Paperclip on 20/20

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