The Sunday school we belonged to in America ran a family day at the local roller-skating rink. So, our family joined in, as usual.
I had just settled into my viewer’s chair when I heard that the races were about to start.
‘OK,’ I thought. ‘This will be fun.’
Then… I saw him.
My son. The four year old with the blonde hair, cheeky grin and eyes that spelt mischief. Jesse, who had his mother wrapped around his little finger.
As I screamed, I felt a very firm but gentle hand grasp my leg. I turned to see Miss Irene the Sunday School director seated next to me. Her hand held my leg and she screamed much more loudly than me
Jesse did not win the race…in fact, he probably spent more time down on his tail than up on his skates. He finished – not shamed, as he would have if he’d listened to me and stopped, but triumphantly, with several hundred people cheering him on.
What a lesson in encouragement.
How many opportunities do we take to encourage others – especially when they are trying something new, or are struggling in their attempts?
As Aussies, our culture tends to knock people who try – and especially those who don’t excel. Even worse, is that we often use sarcasm against others in attempts to make humour. Especially in children, we refer to this as “teasing”. Perhaps we could begin a new culture shift, encouraging instead of telling people ‘Don’t’ or ‘You can’t’.
Encourage one another and build each other up
When babies begin to explore, we can make sure they are in a safe but interesting environment that encourages them to explore – not a sterile one that does not enable them to learn, or one that’s full of breakable objects or things that might hurt them.
When toddlers recognise pictures and symbols we can encourage them with ‘great reading’
When a child runs, skips, jumps or hops, encourage them with ‘Great job!’ instead of ‘Don’t do that… you’ll fall.’
When a child makes a mess in the middle of showing independence, we can coach instead of scold
When a teenager shows interest in taking more initiative we can encourage and give them more responsibility and freedom
When musicians play, we can encourage – and offer help with administration, or babysitters during practice or performances
When pastors preach and speakers teach, we can let them know what we learnt through them
When the neighbourhood kids are rowdy, we can encourage them with a smile and a wave
When our footy team is struggling, we can cheer them on, rather than leave at three-quarter-time
What would happen in Australian homes, schools, churches and workplaces if Aussies chose to encourage, rather than discourage or tease?
What can you do to encourage somebody today?
First published in The Lutheran magazine