Someone Who Believes in You

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In middle school (wait! don’t click away!), my English teacher’s name was Mrs. Goodman. She was stylish and she knew her stuff. There is a lot about Mrs. Goodman that I don’t remember, because I really didn’t think she knew much about me. I figured I was just another student in her class. She didn’t play favorites. She was tough and her voice was raspy and I could never reconcile her tough-as-nails exterior with her sleek and fashionable outfits. Sometimes, I remember, she wore her dark hair in a bun on top of her head. She wore slacks and skirts which, in retrospect, I realize must have been tailored to fit—the lines were so perfect and the cut just right. And, she wore blouses and jewelry—bracelets and rings and earrings—that added just the right amount of class in a world of teachers who wore sensible shoes and polyester pantsuits everyday.

Mrs. Goodman may have been my first fashion icon.

One day (I’m not sure how it happened—a letter to my parents? a talk with Mrs. Goodman after class?), I found out there had been an essay contest and Mrs. Goodman had submitted an essay I wrote. As luck would have it, I won that contest, which meant I’d be having lunch at the Silverdome where I’d receive an award from the Governor of Michigan.

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It was the first time I remember anyone taking notice of my writing. I wasn’t really sure what to think about that. Writing wasn’t anything to which I gave a lot of thought. I just…wrote. I figured everyone wrote. I thought everyone had a journal and that they filled pages and pages with their thoughts and imaginations, way into the early morning hours. Writing was like breathing for me and so, the thought that anyone should get an award for breathing seemed odd to me. The thought that a teacher would take note of my writing and submit an essay of mine without my knowledge because she saw something in me that meant something special to her? Well, I had no frame of reference for something like that.

I have no idea what I wrote in that essay. I don’t remember if I read from it at the awards ceremony, or if I simply accepted my certificate, ate my lunch, had my picture taken with the Governor and the other essay contestants and went home. I remember I wore my favorite outfit, and my wedge heels, and I hoped I looked as stylish as my teacher. And I remember—along with my mom and dad—Mrs. Goodman sat at that round table with the cloth napkins and the white tablecloth, right next to me. In the pictures my parents gave me this week while I visited them, you can see Mrs. Goodman, talking to me in one picture, and then you can see the back of her head, watching as I accepted my award.

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It’s a big deal to have someone believe in you enough to make the Governor take notice.

Over the years, the role Mrs. Goodman played in my life has become more and more significant to me. I honestly didn’t appreciate it, and I couldn’t really comprehend it, back in middle school. But, having Mrs. Goodman believe in me, when I was in middle school is one of those Ebenezer moments in my life. I didn’t realize it, then, but I’m pretty sure God was behind the scenes in that whole thing.

Because, after I started writing on this little blog, a strange thing happened. People started reading this blog. And then, people started saying things that included phrases like, “You should write a book…” and I kept thinking those people were kind, but that they didn’t really know what they were talking about. Even when actual authors with published books and people who publish actual books began to talk to me about writing a book, I found it difficult to give myself over to any ideas other than thinking they were simply being nice.

It’s not that I had any great dreams of writing a book. I didn’t. I don’t. But, when people start saying things like that to you, you begin to wonder where, in the midst of the kind and sincere words of encouragement, is the truth? And for me, my mind kept going back to Mrs. Goodman who, without my knowledge, submitted my essay to a writing contest, back in 1978. Way before any talk of a blog and before bloggers started getting book contracts and before I’d ever heard a word about acquisitions editors.

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When people started talking to me about writing books and things, and I wondered if they were simply being kind, what I started to remember, all these years later, is that Mrs. Goodman submitted my essay, and my essay won first prize in the whole state of Michigan, and that I sat at a round table in the Silverdome, in the same room with the Governor. “You’re a good writer,” Mrs. Goodman said to me. And today, when my mom stood by me as I sat on her sofa, typing away on this laptop of mine, and my mom handed me four pictures of that day in May, 1978, it was just what I needed: my mom and dad reminding me that, all those years ago, someone—besides the people who couldn’t help but cheer for me because of our shared DNA—believed something big for me, and that it was okay to step through that door to see how this whole thing plays out.

Who are the people that believe in you, and see something in you that you don’t see in yourself? How can you let someone know you believe in them?

 

  • Kate

    Very cool. :-) You’ve got the gift. Keep usin’ it. ;-)

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      Thank you! And thanks for that sweet FB message! I’m cheering for you, too.

  • http://loriharris.me/ Lori Harris

    I needed these words this afternoon, Deidra. I have a Mrs. Smith and your story reminded me of her. And it reminded me that, yes, I should write. That I can write. That I need to write. So thank you-

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      Yes. You absolutely can. And should. And I’m glad God used these words to remind you of that. :)

    • Lisha Epperson

      Yes Lori. You can. You should.

  • http://michellederusha.com/ Michelle DeRusha

    I love that your parents gave you these pictures this weekend, because you know what they are saying to you, right: “We have been cheering for you since the beginning. We saw your potential way back in middle school, and we were proud of you then, just like we are proud of you now.”

    And by the way, you have been that person for me, right from the get-go. And you still are. When I get news, you are the first person I tell (well, right after Brad and my parents – but they have to cheer, you know, the marriage and the DNA!). Love you.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      You and I? We go back and forth, cheering for each other. Remember when we both sat at my kitchen table, each one seeing so clearly the path God was laying out for the other, but neither of us able to see it clearly for ourselves? Well, I want you to know I’m proud of you, and SO honored to be able to cheer for you! Much love, Michelle.

  • http://michellederusha.com/ Michelle DeRusha

    By the way, you are totally rocking the peasant dress and the wedges.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      Haha! I loved that outfit (it’s a top and skirt, which was genius, because I could wear the shirt with my Jordache jeans when I was feeling sassy) with a passion unfit for mere textiles. And those shoes? Well, I’m pretty sure I’ve had an affinity for wedges since I was born.

  • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

    Your Mrs. Goodman is my Mrs. Huseman. I thank God for the Mrs. Goodmans and Mrs. Husemans of the world. I want to encourage people like that.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      I’m grateful for your Mrs. Huseman. We are the beneficiaries of her encouragement of you.

  • Nasreen Fynewever

    Write. Breathe. Believe.

    This is my favorite post of yours.
    Ever.

    From recollection, to the consistency of your character, to the teacher and the parents, to the words tumbling from your heart and rolling into the beauty of courage to step through the door. Thanks for writing and posting, dear friend.

    Cheers. In your corner for life.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      And I’m in your corner, Nasreen. Always.

  • MsLorretty

    Oh for the LOVE! Your Mrs. Goodman and Jen’s Mrs Huseman was my Mrs. Gardner and Dr. Kerley. Middle School and High. 3 cheers and a high five for early seed planters and those who tend them still.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      I called that old middle school of mine and started the process of finding Mrs. Goodman. I hope I have the chance to tell her “Thank you.”

  • http://denisejhughes.com/ Denise J. Hughes

    I’m so thankful for the Mrs. Goodman’s in our lives. Everyone needs someone who believes in them.

    Deidra, I love this story. I love the way seeds of affirmation and confirmation were planted deep in your soul all those years ago.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      It’s so crazy to look back on life and see God’s fingerprints all over everything. But I also realize we never really know who we’re impacting and what might happen, simply because we keep showing up in the places God plants us. Mrs. Goodman was a great teacher, and she kept showing up. I can learn a lot from her, even all these years later.

  • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

    I just recently wrote about this, how I discount the kind things people say to me. And I think I’m in this same season (I know shocking that we would have something in common *wink*) of finally believing the truth. I sat on my couch two weeks ago with my Aunt who raised me doing the exact same thing — looking through old photos and God was pointing things out clearly. Maybe we have to get to this age to see ourselves with clarity. I don’t know. I just know life gets better with every decade. And I’m excited about living.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      I’m going to come clean here and admit I’ve hit some bumps with this whole “turning 50″ thing. Some days, I stare out the window, wondering what I’ve done with my life, now that it’s more than halfway done. But then there are the other days, where I realize the vantage point from here is more like an advantage point. I do see things with more clarity, now, and I like what I see.

  • http://www.creeksideministries.blogspot.com/ Linda@Creekside

    Love when we’ve been given mentors and cheerleaders along the way who’ve given us the gift of saying, ‘yes, you can!’
    Let’s pay this forward …

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      Amen to that. Yes, let’s pay it forward!

  • http://sandraheskaking.com/ Sandra Heska King

    I believe in you.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      Likewise. Very much likewise. :)

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    I have been writing since Middle School (writing is like breathing,agreed) but I don’t recall any someone who said they believed in me as a child, well, that I could write well. I do recall Mrs. Jenkins who will forever live in the Favorite Teacher Hall of Fame for giving me a love for the craft of writing and an appreciation for grammar and spelling. Only as an adult (since I joined this online world) have I received the encouragement –’you are a writer’. The urging to follow God’s call in this arena has been loud and clear from so many people–bloggers and writers. And you, girl, have a gift of seeing the best in others.
    Me? Believing in others? Why, I told some first graders today they could write poetry. And I think they believed me… :-)

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      Of course they believed you! You are an amazing teacher!

      In college, I took a summer creative writing class with this professor who was highly regarded as a great teacher and a hard a**. He was the best teacher I ever had. He never encouraged me. Not once. But he pushed me. He got me to write stuff I didn’t know was in me. Sad to say, I don’t even remember his name. I probably never thanked him. He probably would have brushed me off with some gruff, callous remark if I had shown him any kindness, but still, I should have said “Thank you.”

  • Megan Willome

    I seem to recall that neither of us wanted to write a book. :)

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      Truth. :)

  • Beth

    Oh what a lovely story, Deidra. So grateful for the people God places in our lives to encourage us. Blessings.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      He knows just what we need, when we need it. And then, there’s the Holy Spirit to remind us of it, at just the right time. They’ve got a great system worked out, don’t they?

  • Lisha Epperson

    This post makes me think of Mrs. Simmons, Mr. Cunningham, Ron Alexander, Walter Raines and Mrs. McMillan. All teachers who pushed me past my comfort level and showed confidence in me by putting me out there…as a student, as a dancer. I think also of my mother who I overheard one night tell my father, “I don’t know, but if Lisha says she’s going to do something, I believe her” I know I grew at least a foot longer in my bed that night. Her words come to me whenever I doubt myself. And you Deidra, online,you’ve been a special person like that. Someone I know is in my corner – without a doubt. I can’t tell you how good that feels.
    And I agree with Michelle your peasant dress and wedges are fabulous. I so remember that look.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      I love you, Lisha. I’m so glad to know you and to have you for a friend. Across all the miles that separate us, I feel a great kinship with you. You’re a gift.

  • Harry Riggs

    I told you you could write, but I never heard this story ever.

    H

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      I love you. And, I can’t believe I never told you this story! And also? Thanks for always always always telling me, “Yes. Of course you can!”

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    My wife definitely sees things in me I don’t necessarily see in myself first.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      Your wife is awesome!

  • http://www.charitysingletoncraig.com/ Charity Singleton Craig

    First, I love imagine you there with your parents, and your mom leaning over your shoulder while you write. I’ll bet they are so proud. And that they saved these pictures for all those years, and the Ms. Goodman did such an encouraging thing. I love it. I had some teachers like that, and people like that over the years – people who said you should do this even when I didn’t think I had it in me. Tonight, my husband asked if he could use one of my blog posts as a devotional for a meeting he is leading at church tomorrow. Tonight, he is Mrs. Goodman to me. Thanks, Deidra.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      My mom says she was going to save the pictures and give them to me at Christmas, but she’s always had perfect timing. :)

  • pastordt

    LOVE this, love the story and the way you’ve told it. And thank you, Mrs. Goodman, for being an encourager with feet on – someone who took the time to follow through after saying good words. What a gift you have helped to give us all!!

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      I’m praying I can find Mrs. Goodman to give her a proper expression of my gratitude.

  • soulstops

    Deidra,
    Thank God for Mrs. Goodman and for your parents saving those pictures…What an encouragement…praying God blesses you as you write :)

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      Thanks for those prayers, Dolly. I’m finding the words, and I’m sure that’s because of the prayers of the people.

  • http://thepinksandlilies.blogspot.com/ Tonya @Pinks and Lilies

    Yes, write the book!
    I come to your blog because of that “Going There” topic and knowing that at least I know one black blogger that will always have somethihng written about God on their blog.
    I wish we did know each other.
    I am always inspired after visitng your blog. So glad that you started it.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      I love it when you stop by here. And, while we haven’t met, face-to-face, I do feel a special connection to the people I’ve met, right here in the comment box. Thanks so much for reading!

  • LeliaChealey

    Oh my family has been amazing. Also Deidra, you have spoken belief into me on many occasion– thankful for you.
    I will send a hand written note of encouragement this week to let someone know I believe in them. ♥

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com/ Deidra

      I saw Kim Hyland yesterday, and we were talking about you. “She’s so chill,” Kim said of you. Of course, I agreed. You make the world a better place, Lelia. And that’s the truth.

  • http://www.christytennant.com Christy Tennant Krispin

    The person who first seriously encouraged me to write was my oldest brother, Rob. His opinion meant the world to me, and to this day, he is one of my biggest encouragers. As far as teachers go, I had Mr. Tucker (music) for three years in high school, such a hard time in my life, and he really went above and beyond to encourage me. So fun to see these pictures! This is what you looked like when I first met you!

  • Anne Payne

    That’s wonderful that you had a teacher who believed in you!

  • Angie Ryg

    Getting back to reading after some time at Disney and accepting a teaching job while on vacation and this writing just makes me stop and say, “Yes.” Yes to the teachers who believe in us. Yes to the cheerleaders who keep us going. Yes to family who *have* to love us, but do in such amazing ways. This is such a fun way to see a piece of the picture that has created you to shine your words in the light of Jesus! Cheering for you and cannot wait to see all your words in that book!