(Original Publish Date: 1/13/2007)
I remember the fun I had growing up with my friends all around. We used to play with baseball cards in the summer, and GI Joe’s in the winter, during the fall we’d be out raking leaves just to jump in them in between games of football in someone’s yard. Spring time would bring out the kites, some of them homemade, others with a better pedigree but all being held by a friend while one of us ran our fastest to send it vaulting into the stratosphere.
I didn’t have to look far at that age for encouragement, it came with just about every friend I had. We all knew the unspoken commitment our friendship brought to cheer each other on, to cheer for longer jumps on the bikes, acrobatic catches while playing football, drawing a cartoon precisely as it appeared in the Sunday comics, and even to sending a little redheaded girl a note asking if she liked you (“please check one of the boxes, yes or no”).
Here I am reflecting again. At age 48 I’ve arrived at a station in life that should be wonderfully satisfying, yet in looking around, I am without someone by my side. I have discovered I am better with someone than without. Some brag about wanting a romantic partner but not needing one, that wouldn’t be me. I want to be with someone that knows how to encourage , and someone that will respond well to encouragement.
Ok, so how does all this relate to the subject of encouragement, you may be asking yourself now? Let me explain…
One summer I witnessed my son and his two friends sitting near the bottom of a grassy slope in front of my home. All three had their Game Boy’s out working on making it to new, unexplored levels of Pokemon, a game series in which they each possessed a cartridge. When one would get stumped, the other would offer to help them through that part of the game. Hi-five’s abounded as they reveled in their accomplishments, and consoling pats on the back when certain failure occurred at each new level.
I started, once again, to see the value of encouragement through the eyes of my son. You see, you lose nothing to offer the kind word, or the hug, or pat on the back, but it could cost you everything to withhold it.
With simple words of encouragement I found I could help ‘re-frame’ a person’s view of themselves. I’ve never offered those words without actually believing in what I’m saying and that’s the key. You can see the person for who they are because you have a view of the forest. You see the bigger picture. They don’t see it because they are right up next to the trees and can only look up and see one perspective.
I wouldn’t recommend dating someone who is a ‘project’, someone in need of rescuing. That’s the pit fall for a person like me who would prefer to be WITH someone, it’s easy to cross the line of merely being an encourager, a sojourner, to being a rescuer.
However, dating someone who just needs to see themselves through your eyes long enough to get back on track…..that’s worth the risks. Or partnering in business with someone who was a true visionary at one time but was beaten down recently from life’s experiences….. that’s worth the risks.
Somewhere along the way I lost the innocent, and even automatic politeness of telling my friends they’d done a wonderful job at something. As I grew into my teens and subsequently into my twenty’s the pressure to succeed became greater than the reward of getting “there” with someone at my side. This whole marvelous concept of recognizing others was lost, or at the very least suppressed, for years.
This isn’t about being a ‘glass half full’ type, it’s about meeting people at THEIR point of need, even when they don’t see it that way. If only 50% of the glass has something in it, fill it up again!
If I use the model of my son for a guide, it’s time to get out the Game Boys and hang out with friends and lovers who will join me in a journey to greatness, everyone hi-fiving, and saying ‘good job’ along the way. And when set backs happen, be there to say “Geez, that happened to me once, you’re not alone. Want me to play this next level for a bit to help?” True encouragement is not just words but actions as well. Like my son and his friends.
It’s winter, anyone have some GI Joe’s hangin’ around we can play with?
Thanks for reading this far.