I went to answer my phone and didn't recognize the area code.
"Hi Nancy, this is Josh. Remember me? I was your Production Assistant years ago in New York?"
Sweet Josh. Of course I remembered him. Diligent, eager, contagious smile, upbeat disposition. After a few minutes of catching up he explained the real reason he was calling.
"You know the advice you gave me years ago -- it changed my life and I just wanted to thank you." Wow, I thought to myself. I wasn't a therapist then. What deep, words of wisdom did I bestow that affected him so profoundly?
I thanked him and stammered a little and was about to move on but my curiosity got the best of me. "What exactly did I say, Josh?"
"You told me that eating a muffin in the morning wasn't a good way to start the day and that some protein, like an egg sandwich, would give me all sorts of nutrients and energy."
So much for profundity.
It's funny how, sometimes, when we least expect it, we hear a line or a sentence or a thought and --in and of itself --it isn't profound. But when a person on the receiving end hears it, something clicks. It's the missing piece of a puzzle and it just fits.
A few days later at my pilates class, while we stretching and rolling out our feet (ow!) a baby boomer woman was lamenting that her adult child was still giving her heartaches even though she'd left the nest years ago. Our instructor, one of those old-soul thirty-somethings spoke softly:
Let those birds fly.
That's all she said. I stopped rolling my spiky ball and just looked at her, nodded and said "yes."
The image and her words resonated with me. It was what I needed at the moment to understand and put into perspective a conflict I was dealing with.
Even though I give my patients (and I say to myself) phrases like, "It might be time to let that go," or "Why do you need to carry that around with you," it was someone else who successfully handed me my corner piece.
We don't know when, or where, or by whom our bits of "wisdom" may transform another's life. So if you get a call from someone who's beyond grateful for the advice you once wisely uttered --and the impact it's had-- just say, "thanks."
And don't be embarrassed to ask, "What exactly did I say?"