I sometimes sense that people think I am naive for believing in other people too much. Of course, most of them don't tell me to my face that they think I'm naive, but it's in their faces, in their body language, or in their carefully-crafted questions that focus on the deficiencies/shortcomings of the people they are assigned to help.

In any case, there is a reason I believe in others so much.

You see, I used to be the kid that almost everyone underestimated, overlooked, or never even noticed. In school, I was the quiet one in the back of the room with my head down on my desk. I was the one who sat alone in the cafeteria because no one wanted to sit with me. I was the one who got picked last for sports. I was the one who got teased for having holes in my pants and shoes. I was the one who lost friends as soon as they found out I lived in the projects or was homeless. I was the one that no one wanted in their study groups. I was the one that no one invited to their parties. I was the one who walked home alone.

But I was also the one that had big dreams and potential like everyone else. I just had a whole lot of other stuff going on in my life that was out of my control. But God saw my potential and sent people into my life who believed in me when I needed it most. There was my mother, who, despite her own challenges, loved me the best she could with what she had been given, and believed in me like no one else. Then there was a man named Martin who sat down next to me on a park bench to tell me that God loves me and wants a relationship with me, wants the best for me, and has a purpose and plan for my life. Then there was a pastor named Richard who believed in me, modeled love for me, and helped me return to school. There was also an English teacher named Erin who believed in me enough to help me prepare for and apply to college. There was a lunch lady, Rodu, who told me that I was going to be great one day even though I was failing several classes. And there were coaches- Clarke, Brennan, Tucker, Valentine, Hauke, and many others- who believed in me and poured into me. There have been many others who believed in me as well. So, all of that faith in me pulled some things out of me that even I didn’t know were there.

Because of that, I am absolutely convinced that believing in other people to help them realize their potential is not naive; believing in them is necessary. Your belief in others has the power to free their potential; it can help them become what they not yet are; it can even save someone's life. I'm living proof.

So keep believing, friend! Even if the circumstances don't look good, believe. Even when they are giving you very little reason to do so, believe. Believe that people are greater than their circumstances, greater than their problems, greater than their shortcomings, greater than their failures, greater than their genetics, greater than their neighborhoods. Believe in them until they believe in themselves. It works! It works! I'm living proof! Believe!

Love,
Manny