In my past, in the days when I was growing up, one encouraging word from the right person could make my day…. maybe my entire week. If my Dad told me I had done a good job on something….anything really, I redoubled my effort to do an even better job the next time. I had the most difficult time learning to tie my shoes. I can remember, because I was almost six before I could tie them well. Dad never got mad, just kept encouraging me to try again. “You’ll get it” he said. And I finally did. I had a lot of problems with some relatively simple motor skill tasks. I was smart in other ways. I could read before I started school, and I was always good at doing adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing in my head. I could figure percentages of things especially well…..but I had trouble keeping my pants zipped. Go figure. It could be the concussion I suffered riding my tricycle down our brick steps when I was four. I busted my head open, was bloody as hell, and got knocked out. It took 12 stitches to close the wound, and I told Dr. Allen to “keep his shit’n hands off me,” while he was doing the stitching. “Where’d he learn that language?” He asked “From his Mom”. Said Dad.
It could be the severe high fever (106 degrees) that I had right before my third birthday, which caused my eyes to cross so severely, you could barely see the blue. They stayed that way for a year, then gradually uncrossed. I don’t remember it, but I’m sure my brain was about fried. But I got over those things. I was encouraged to improve. So I did. I used to love to take broom handles and hit rocks from my Grandpa’s dirt road driveway, out into ol’ Uncle Lark Davenport’s corn field. That field was all rocks and no dirt anyway, so he never cared. I spent many, many hours whacking rocks. I was an awkward and backward 12 year old the year..the last year, I was eligible to play little league. I was embarrassed to try out, but two great men in the community encouraged my efforts, and all of the hours I had spent whacking little rocks with a skinny stick paid off as I found I could really rip a baseball with a baseball bat. Made the All-stars that year.
I wanted to write my Freshman year in High School, but was afraid I couldn’t do it well enough. Mrs. Wingfield, who was the English teacher and editor of the school paper read some of my poetry, and encouraged me to enroll in journalism class. I ended up writing quite a few articles, and a lot of poetry. I was just looking through my old scrapbook of “inches” I wrote for the paper the other day. I thought of Ms. Jesse’s encouragement, and how she believed in me. She was a great teacher. I could go on, but I guess my point is clear. All the things I ever succeeded at even moderately were the result of being encouraged.
Trying to make me do something I don’t want to do, especially if someone is coming from a bullying attitude, or an attitude of “my way or the highway” just makes me buck up like a mule. I have even shut down in past years with people who insist they were dictators, and their word had to be obeyed or else. I once walked out of a meeting with a “boss” like that, walked to my car, and turned it on and drove home. The guy called me and begged me to come back…because I was running his factory one handed. I didn’t. I’ve walked out of college classes on the first or second day (and some halfway through the course) because the professors were discouragers instead of encouragers. I did not need them, or their negativity in my life. Of course some of these actions have cost me….some of them were foolhardy. But I didn’t stop to think at the time. I don’t encourage anyone to be like me. To be like I was.
I got lucky and married a sane wife with good sense, who balances out my impetuous nature with her common sense. I’ve helped her raise three wonderful and successful children. I hope I encouraged them more often than I discouraged them. They certainly grew up with one slightly off center, brain impaired Dad.
I think nowadays we as a country, as a world…need to encourage our children and little ones. Let’s tell them that there’s nothing….nothing, that they cannot accomplish. And if we tell them, and they truly believe us, perhaps they will save this world and usher in a new age of peace and prosperity. If I don’t see you, or talk to you before then, have a Merry Christmas. Happy holiday, nice days off, or…..whatever you want!