From Rocks to Balloons


By Mark E. Smith

Why do you eat at your favorite restaurant? Is it the food?

And, what’s been your favorite job? Was it because of the salary?

As different as these two questions seem, the answers are one in the same: the people.

The theme to the television classic, Cheers, where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came, tells a life truth – that is, the quality of the people in our lives directly correlates with the ultimate quality of our lives.

From family to friends to colleagues to acquaintances, people in our lives aren’t hard to come by. However, how well do we really vet them? I don’t mean that in a snobbish way, but in a healthy, heartfelt way. Are the people we surround ourselves with bringing positive aspects into our lives or negativity? In fact, even neutrality leans toward negativity because such individuals aren’t enhancing our lives, just existing in it.

My wife and I are working on an ambitious personal project, and it’s required us to assemble a team of varied professionals. Competency is a given, but we’ve also understood that in order for the project to succeed, we needed to assemble the kindest, most empathetic souls. And, it’s worked. Slowly, we’ve seen this diverse cast of characters come together who are truly loving, supportive people. Every get together just elevates everyone’s spirits. The project is the project, but it’s the quality of the people that are elevating not just its success, but all of our lives in the process.

Yet, there’s a process to having quality people in our lives, an awareness that has to occur, especially with those we spend a lot of time with. Not everyone is a right fit. How do we know? We feel it. There are those in our lives who bring an incredible spirit that leaves us feeling great, and others who emotionally pull us down. For me, I go by my “hug factor” – that is, if I feel the natural draw to hug someone after spending time together, that’s someone who’s a great force to have in my life. However, if someone makes me feel some sort of negativity, I know it’s someone to keep at arms length or eliminate altogether from my life. I want to hold on to helium balloons that uplift, not rocks that sink. I likewise, though, strive to equally be a helium balloon to others – and, man, if you get two helium balloons together, a sky of unlimited possibilities is literally yours.

Sometimes this process is innate when we’re lucky; sometimes it takes awareness, which is most common; and, sometimes it requires difficult decisions, setting boundaries. My wife and I have had someone on our project team who by profession had to be involved, but has become a very negative force. No matter the kindness all have extended, this individual has ticked everyone off with rude comments and an overall negative disposition. Needless to say, this individual won’t be invited to the wrap-up party. Yes, we should always extend empathy, but we likewise shouldn’t allow negative individuals to pull us down. And, in leadership roles of groups, it’s vital for morale not to allow one individual to diminish the camaraderie of the group.

Ultimately, we can’t always control who’s in our lives. Yet, we can control how we recognize and interact with them. Observe how those around you effect you and others, and realize that the quality of those in your life directly correlates with the quality of your life. So, let the rocks go, and grab on to those helium balloons. They will elevate your life, as you do theirs.


Author: Mark E. Smith

The literary side of the WheelchairJunkie

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