giving good advice and hoping it’s the best

I encourage you to inspire someone today.

“Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.” Got to love the endlessly quotable Jurassic Park. Today’s DWC is about influence. When we question something, are we truly seeking advice in the first place? Some say when we go searching for answers, we already know what our answer is. Instead, we’re looking for validation for our decision.

Words are a powerful motivator. Whether it be positive or negative advice, it can generate repurcussions far beyond our expectations.  In the film The Shawshank Redemption, the film touches on whether “hope” is good or dangerous, and the fallout of believing both.

After reading my instructions for today’s DWC, I began to wonder about influence and another word often used interchangibly for seeking enlightenment, “encouragement.”

What is the difference between influence and encouragement?  Hmm…

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “influence” as:

1. an ethereal fluid held to flow from the stars and to affect the actions of humans
2. an emanation of spiritual or moral force
3. the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command
4. the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways
5. one that exerts influence

“Encourage” is defined as:

1. to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope
2. to spur on
3. to give help or patronage to

I began to think about “advice” and how so many of my life’s decisions were for issues falling under some shade of gray rather than black and white, and praying that the decisions I’ve made were the right ones.

Not all of them were the right decisions… Oh, well.

Influence is motivation from an unknown source (whether it be a thought referencing to an earlier conversation or decision, signs from ‘up above’ or whatnot). Where as encouragement is a suggestion from a direct source.

Identifying my DWC’s grammar is wrong, that’s a different different post for another time.

The scene I wrote below is dealing with some very difficult issues. Murder, abuse, drunk driving, and most of all, parenting. What guidance do you give someone who has suffered a horrible tragedy?

Advice can be good, but is it always the best?  Check out today’s DWC and let me know if our protagonist, Roger is receiving good advice.  If separate, is Roger receiving the best advice?

What were some encouraging words that you’ve held onto in your life?  Were they helpful or did they cause more trouble than the advice was worth? 

Daily Writing Challenge

Day 18: Your character has a conversation with an influential person in their life. It can be a parent, a teacher, a mentor, anyone your character looks up to. Why are they having the conversation? Write the scene.

The steel gate shut, the sound of the lock settling echoed through the cement hallways.  Next was his least favorite part, but a necessity of the procedure.  After walking through the metal detector, he spread his arms and legs.  Roger let the security guard pat him down, check his driver’s license and walk up to the check in desk.

“Nice to see you again, Roger,” Lorraine greeted him with a slight nod.

“Afternoon, ma’am,” returning the nod as he signed the paperwork and turned over his personal belongings. 

“Got a new pic of that darlin’ girl of yours?” Lorraine asked.

“Yup. Won the school spelling bee this year!” he said proudly.

“Now ain’t that nice,” Lorraine winked. Giving a nod to the row of seats she said, “She’ll be out in just a few minutes. Go to number six.”

He sat at the cement table, its cool hard surface chilling his hands. Through the glass, Roger saw a flash of orange appear at the doorway.

She looked thin. Her cheeks used to be full and pink with color. Now, after three years of being in Willow Creek County Correctional Facility, her face was sallow and worn. A blue bandanna was tied around her head, her hair wiry and raw from the harsh soaps.  He remembered she used to spend an hour in the morning, making sure every hair was in place, with a shellac of hair spray over the top. If she’d set her hair correctly, Mother Nature herself wouldn’t dare ruffle that hairdo.

As the correction officer led the woman into the room, Roger grabbed the wired phone and tapped the window with the receiver, then placing it to his ear.  The woman grabbed the receiver on her side of the glass, and her voice funneled through the earpiece with some slight static.

“Hello, baby,” she said warmly.

The same calm voice that comforted him when he was sick, that helped guide him during his baseball games, that same voice who would read him bedtime stories when he was little.  It was always difficult seeing her through the safety glass.  Not even able to give her a hug of support during her time in this horrible place.

“Hi Mama,” he said.

“Did you get that fancy job in Chicago?”

“I did, Mama. I got it. We’re supposed to leave next week.” His heart sank. How could he move on with his mama living in this shithole?

“How’s my little angel?” she asked, glancing at his shirt pockets.

Roger took the picture from his shirt and held it up to the glass.  “She’s seven now, Mama. She looks just like Whit. More, every day,” he said, giving her his best smile.  “She won the spelling bee.”

“Oh she’s so big! And she has her daddy’s smile!” His mother ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the picture for a few more minutes. “Anyone can tell after meeting her for two seconds that that girlie is goin’ places!”

In the photo, stood his beautiful little Jenny. A spotlight on her, with her shaking hands with the school’s principal. Sure enough, she had her daddy’s ear-splitting grin, which was wide as the Mississippi is long, despite missing a couple of teeth. Standing up straight with her chest puffed up, holding her certificate proudly on stage, you could just feel the joy emanating from the photo.

Returning his smile she replied, “There now! That’s what I like to see!  A smile looks good on you. And yet…” her brow furrowed. “Now what’s troublin’ you, baby boy?”

Roger’s smile fell slightly, “How did you know something was wrong?”

“A mother always knows when her baby is hurtin’.”

Roger wiped his face with his hand and sighed.  After a few moments of silence, he decided to just get right down to it.  “I don’t know what to do about Jenny, mama.” He shok his head. “She’s getting big now, and she’s smart. Smart as a whip.  But that means she’s starting to ask questions I don’t have the answers to.”

His mother just sat, patiently listening to him, letting him gather his thoughts. She had always been a good listener. Hopefully she’d know what to do.

“She wants to know why Whitney is gone, and I can’t…  I just-” he voice faded, pausing as an ice block settled into this stomach like every other time he remembered his wife.

“You don’t know how to explain why her mama’s gone,” she said more as a statement rather than a question.

He looked up at the ceiling, hesitating before responding.  “What am I gonna do, mama? How do I tell my little girl.. How that idiot was too drunk to know his ass from his elbow and crashed into Whitney’s car? It’s a miracle Jenny even survived the crash herself, let alone having to explain to my girl that he killed my wife?”

His mother gave him a stern look and pointed her index finger firmly at him. “Roger, your daddy made his own decisions and ruined this family. I let that nonsense go on for far too long, and I will not let you continue to feel guilty about your daddy’s sins. It was not your fault.”

“Mama, if I had just been there instead of off the coast for work, Whit would never have gone to pick him up at Two Snake Jake’s.”

His mama raised an eyebrow. “Roger, you listen to me and you listen good. What’s done is done. You can’t change the past. But you can build a newer and brighter future for you and my granddaughter.”

“But what do I tell her?” he exclaimed. “How do I explain Whit-… And you bein’ in here?”

“This is what you tell her. Life is all about choices. That the ones you ignore are just as powerful as the ones you make, and hope you have the sense to know the difference.”  Her eyes softened.  “You tell her that she had a beautiful mama who died trying to do the right thing. And a nana who-” her voice caught and she paused a moment. “A nana who made sure that her granddaddy couldn’t hurt anyone ever again.”

She blinked back some tears.  After taking a moment to compose herself, she said pointedly, “You tell my little angel that people make mistakes. It’s part of being human. That I made mistakes too, and I have to live with them, and that’s that. She’s only a little girl. That’s all. She. Needs. To. Know.”

Roger felt a huge vice clamping down on his heart, immobilizing him.  “You shouldn’t be in here. It’s not fair. It’s not your fault that daddy was a no-good sonfabitch.”

“It was my decision. I did a bad thing, and that’s why I’m here.  This had nothin’ to do with you,” she said firmly.

“It had everythin’ to do with me! With us!” he was shouting now.  “Daddy drank till he was blue in the face, and any time he wasn’t drinkin’ he was smackin’ you around!”

“Hey!” the guard said in a steely, cold voice. “If you don’t simmer down right now, you’re gone. Understand, son?”

“Sorry. Won’t happen again,” Roger grumbled under his breath.

His mother watched Roger carefully for a few moments before speaking again.  “Now, Roger, you go on up outta here. Give your baby girl a hug and never let her go. You hold onto her with everything you’ve got, take the job in Chicago and don’t ever look back at this town.”

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