The great, Pulitzer-winning poet Jericho Brown tells many a story of how he’ll often find himself on a plane next to a person who asks what he does for a living. When he responds sharing about his work as a poet, they’ll invariably turn their noses up at him.
Oh, I hate poetry.
…they’ll say to a man who just told them that poetry is his fondest love.
But then, he’ll press a little bit. Surely, he’ll ask, they don’t hate all poetry.
And without fail, the conversation partner will respond in the affirmative, saying something like, “well, there is one poem…”
And then, often, something incredible will happen:
The person will recite their favorite poem word for word.
This is quite a sharp turn for the person who just professed to hate poetry to take. It also carries a lesson. The people in these interactions aren’t instinctively aware of any poems that have left a notable mark on them, yet they all have one or two that they know well enough to recite.
Can you imagine how much work that poem has done on the person in the background of their life over the years that they’ve carried it with them? These words that they’re somehow unaware of but that they also can’t rid their memories of are musical or evocative or vivid enough to stay with them and likely to crop up subtly enough times over the years that they reach “unforgettable” status. In doing so, they do tiny, subtle bits of work on the person like slow-growing seeds sprouting branches of perspective.
The reason I bring this up at 1:45 AM on a Friday night (which is 105 minutes past my deadline, whoops,) is because as leaders and disruptors, we’re often unaware of the seeds we’re planting in the people around us every day — as are the people that receive them.
But over time, the interactions we have with them and the words we leave with them work on them in ways we can’t see, but reveal their impact in time.
So maybe we can leverage this unavoidable truth by developing a daily awareness of the answer to the simple question: what seeds did I plant today?
And how will the ones I plant tomorrow look different?