People can say thank you, or smile in appreciation.
But in general, you don't often find out the emotional impact you have on someone else, particularly someone you don't know very well.
Of course, just by being nice and helpful, you can make someone's day. I once bought a sandwich and lemonade for a man I see regularly at the hospital and he told me it made his week.
And after ChIPS camps, we receive books called 'warm fuzzies' that are made up of messages from both young people and staff on the camp. Reading the messages is very moving, and on each bus trip home I am teary knowing how I've helped someone else on camp. I often look through my warm fuzzies on bad days.
A bit over a week ago I received an email that overwhelmed me to the point of tears. I was at dinner with Kristy when the email came through.
It's interesting because I have always been amazed at the people who take the time to comment on my blog, often offering compliments. The majority of comments make me smile, and it is nice knowing that I might be helping some of my readers in a small way.
The email I received was written with such emotional openness and honesty. It's not often that we see people reveal these emotions to us. Maybe that's why it was so overwhelming to me, because many people keep their feelings to themselves.
It was from a friend who I haven't seen in many years. I don't actually know him that well. Like most of the friends I haven't seen for many years, we are back in touch because of FaceBook.
The email was titled 'You're awesome'.
My friend showed absolute courage in writing this email to me.
He told me about his struggles in life. Serious struggles that I can't imagine how he copes with. Sometimes he doesn't cope. Out of respect to him, I am not going to detail his struggles here (I have sought his permission to write this blog entry).
After he shared this with me, I cried. It saddened me to know what he's been through.
I then read on further.
'Today, I got onto Facebook and saw your smiling face.
You are the person I admire the most. Not my favourite rock stars or sports personalities. YOU.
99% of the time I see your posts they are very constructive and mostly of some joy.
I wish I had the courage that you have.
I wish you everything Carly. You are the most beautiful person I have ever met.
When I see the pics of you smiling, it makes me smile.
I set out writing this blog entry intending to end it with some sort of moral I've learnt. But even today, reading my friend's words again, I am at a loss to articulate how I feel.
Here's a bit of my reply.
'I am so sorry for the troubles you have had. You've been through some huge things and I admire the courage of your honesty tonight. You put things in perspective for me - that so many people have demons and life is a struggle for lots of people, so be kind to everyone you meet.
Your message confirms that who I am did mean something to someone from back in those school days. And while I know it's been about 20 years since then, it makes me happy to think that maybe I had an impact on someone back then, for them to want to know me now.
I didn't realise that I could truly have such an impact on someone like I have done for you. You said that you admire me out of anyone. That is ... I can't explain how it makes me feel. It's overwhelming, but almost a privilege. I didn't know I had the power to make anyone feel that way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It takes a lot of courage to say what you just did tonight.'
While I somehow improved his life a little, until then unbeknown to me, my friend has also made my world a better place.