Friday, August 29, 2008
The Boy in the Black Jersey
Photo by Stu Seeger
Encouragement is a powerful medicine to the heart. Our pastor preached recently on how a word of encouragement can change a person's life, how it can cause them to take a different turn, choosing to believe that they are worth more and can do more and be more than they believed before the words of others lifted them to see above the haze of every day to see the "what could be". His words and the testimony of one of our church members to this have been knocking about in my head all week. How do I encourage others? What does it look like?
God showed me this week.
It's football season. I know this because as I walk the track at the middle school while my son practices with his soccer team, there are about a hundred young football players doing drills and practicing for upcoming games. They range from middles school boys with growing "man-bodies" all the way down to little boys that look like they are about 3rd or 4th graders. They come to practice in pads, helmets and jerseys and faithfully run through their drills.
The other night the younger boys were taking a lap around the track. I watched as a tiny little guy in a blue jersey with a number 2 on the back fell further and further behind the track. His little legs looked like pencils stuck in football cleats. The helmet seemed to sway back and forth with the strides as he struggled to keep his head from bobbing forward from the weight of it. My mother's heart broke a bit for this little guy who was so obviously undersized compared to the other boys. Would his self confidence survive the season?
Just then, another of the boys in the back of the pack, a sturdy little guy in a black jersey turned his head and saw little Number Two about 20 feet behind him. He purposely slowed his run down so Number Two could catch up to him. He turned his head and you could tell he was talking to Number Two as they ran together. At one point, as they fell further and further behind the pack, still running, he put his arm around Number Two for just a moment. The two ran together until they finished the drill and joined the rest of the team. The boy in the black jersey said a final word to little Number Two and then disappeared into the mass of boys as they lined up for stretches. It was almost as if he said, "You'll be OK now. You don't need me here right now anymore," and he let Number Two become just another member of the large football team.
Wow - what an incredible real world image of encouragement. Someone to come alongside you when you need them. Not to save you. Not to tell you it's OK to stop or give up during the hard stuff, but someone to run with you, put their arm around you, tell you you're doing a great job and then to give you the confidence that you really don't need to rely on them, you've got it in you to do the job on your own.
I doubt either of these boys will ever play in the NFL but I have no doubt that they will know the power of an encouraging word in their lives. I have been challenged to act on this lesson - as the giver and receiver.
Have I told any of you "thank you" recently for the time you take to comment on my blog? Forgive me if I haven't. Thank you for your encouraging words. Thanks to all of you who encourage me in real life and online to use my gifts and challenge me not to give up when I hit roadblocks real and perceived. Thanks to all of you who make me laugh, make me cry and keep me real as we do laps on the track of life. I hope that there are times I do the same for you and I'll be looking for chances to run with you in the days ahead.
Thanks God, for the picture of Number Two and the Boy in the Black Jersey. That was a picture just for me and I got it. (You're so cool that way!)