We’ve all had at least one mentor, teacher, leader, friend or parent who has impacted us in a positive way. Someone who has made a difference in our lives, who has enabled us to become the adult we are today.

Their impacts are not always big splashes, but more likely subtle gestures, which should come from the heart. If your heart is not in it, don’t sit in someone’s empty chair unless you plan to fill it, not just occupy it. To fill it is to do so with love, compassion, kindness and a bit of discipline and hard work.

On the day of our birth, we have an empty chair waiting for us. It’s a chair that we will carry throughout our lives, from place to place, year after year, and it will have a profound impact on us via the chair’s various occupants. It will be occupied by people who will guide us emotionally, physically and spiritually.

The first person in our chair is a parent, but over time, the individual sitting there will change a number of times. Some will be there multiple times, for different reasons.

Parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, teachers and coaches will be in our chair. At times, our chair will be empty and we will feel as though we have been cast off, not really knowing our destination. But everyone who spends time in our chair brings value to our lives, be it positive or negative, and helps to shape who we become. Many people have sat in my chair, and through the years, my chair has taken on different meanings depending upon who was there at a particular time.

Eventually, the time will come when we sit in someone’s chair. It may be our child, a sibling, a friend, colleague or maybe even a parent. Being invited to sit in someone’s chair is not a right of birth or station in life. To occupy someone’s chair is honor and privilege. The relationship is at once simple and complex.

When you have influence – be it as a parent, teacher, mentor or friend – you hold the very future of an individual in your hand. Children become like the adults who have influenced them along their journey. When you sit in the chair of a child, you must live the life you want for them and be the person you want them to be.

Too often, we underestimate the power of kindness in a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring – all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

To receive the honor of being in someone’s chair, you don’t have to be a genius or a millionaire. You do, however, have to be a living person of strong character, who measures success by helping others succeed. Loving and respecting others, regardless of your physical and emotional connection to them, takes strength and courage. When your daily choices are driven by love, you bring happiness to everyone around you.

Love does not care about race or gender, religious beliefs or political affiliations. Love will give you the courage to stand up for what is right and not simply what is popular even if it means standing alone.

Kindness, compassion, respect and courage all reside in a loving heart. Never let hate steal your heart. When hate enters, you lose yourself.

It may seem that living with love, a full heart and a peaceful soul means you are weak. Being kind and respectful of others may seem to take a back seat to bragging and self-promotion.

In this upside down society in which we live, it is no longer cool to be a gentleman. Pulling out a woman’s chair, opening doors for her, walking on the street-side of the sidewalk are some of the basics my father taught me about being a man. I grew up around men who lived this way.

The common denominator is you. We can be anything and everything you want us to be. We simply must identify it and put in the work to achieve it.

Jamie Protin is founder and principal of The Protin Group in Belle Vernon.

To submit business-related columns, email Rick Shrum at rshrum@observer-reporter.com.

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