One key concept we use to help people understand the process of building social capital is to recognize the critical role of the "gatekeeper." As we use the concept here, a gatekeeper is someone already accepted in the community who offer their support, endorsement or acceptance of a new-comer. This juxtaposition alone between someone already valued with someone hoping to be valued creates a lift to the new person. When people see (or hear) someone they like, trust, or respect endorse someone new, they are more prone to like that new person as well. Sociologists call this "social influence theory" and it is more powerful than we know.
What is even more powerful is that the endorsement of a gatekeeper has both an internal and external impact. That is, when people around the gatkeeper see their actions toward the new-comer, they begin to warm up to them. This is the external effect of social influence theory, but more, there is a also an internal validation that the new person experiences that effects self-esteem, self-confidence, and feeling better about oneself.
In trainings we do on this concept, we sometimes use an exercise that illustrates this internal impact. After discussing the concept of the gatkeeper, we ask people to take a minute and reflect on the gatekeepers in their life. We ask thm to write down their names and jot down the experience they had with this person. Then we find some volunteers to share their story.
Invariably respondents offer these powerful, warm memories of parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, relatives, ministers and the like who were there of them, propped them up, saw something in them they couldn't see in themselves. Powerful, sometimes loving, tearful, but always incredibly validating.
So stop now and think about the "golden gatekeepers" who have impacted your life. More, if you still have a relationship with this person stop now and reach out to them. Call, go visit, and tell them how much they influenced your life.
As grief is measured in lost opportunities with people, don't miss this chance to tell your gatekeepers how much you love them!