Former U.S. First Lady Barbara Bush has been quoted as saying, “If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.”
We can actually find potential in everything we do, every experience we have. Going to school, starting a job, moving to a new location, or meeting new people—all of these are full of potential. But they can also be stressful, even problematic. The trick, as Mrs. Bush suggested, is to find the potential rather than focusing on the problems.
And this is especially true when it comes to people. Each of us is a unique combination of weaknesses and strengths, problems and potential. Some of us are like a barren patch of land: the problems are obvious and the potential is hidden. But instead of seeing people as they are now, if we can see who they could be with a little nurturing, love, and care, that desolate parcel of dirt just might surprise you with what it can produce.
Parents see this in their children; teachers see it in their students; we can all see it in each other—and even in ourselves. A troubled past or an abrasive personality may seem like a problem, but it is almost always hiding unlimited potential. No matter where we are right now or what we have done in the past, the future is as bright as we want to make it. We can do a little more, be a little better, love a little deeper.
It takes time, effort, and great patience to see in a person the potential that is invisible to the eye. Yes, some may disappoint us; we may even disappoint ourselves from time to time. But that doesn’t change who we are inside. We all need someone to believe in us, someone to cheer us on when we stumble, someone to see potential in us even in the face of weakness and problems—someone to see with the heart.
Like a garden that lies dormant in the winter, a person’s strength and goodness may be temporarily hidden, but a little warmth and light may be all that’s needed to inspire growth—to turn problems into potential.