To Encourage Sincerely perhaps ranks at the top of gifts we can give one to another. I will never forget the first time my daughter Amy and I ran, with tens of thousands of other runners, the annual July 4th 10K Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. (Perhaps “ran” is much too dynamic a word to describe what I did during those 6.2 miles.) At each mile marker, and actually various places in-between, folks would appear in my peripheral vision with cups of cold water in outstretched hands, yelling phrases such as, “Keep it up, #4932, you can do it!” and “Just look at you running so fast!” I would turn a corner or reach a hilltop and hear blaring cheerily from loudspeakers the theme song from “Chariots of Fire” or “Rocky.” Such encouragement made me feel like an actual runner.
In a post from way back, I introduced the concept of Balcony People: “Balcony people are those folks in your life who encourage you, lift you up, give of themselves to you in some way. They make you feel valuable and important. They climb the steps up into your balcony, lean over the railing, gaze back down at you as you struggle through life and yell, ‘You can make it! Keep going!'”
In another post, Balcony People-Part Two, I introduced five guiding principles of Balcony People:
“1. Balcony People are willing to take risks. Because when we reach outside of ourselves to help or encourage someone else, we take the chance of being rejected, laughed at, embarrassed, or even thought of as a little weird. ‘Old Man Saye, why do you keep telling me my yellow dress is just so very pretty?! Please back away me!'”
2. BP realize that what you reap, you sow. Staying in balconies makes you happier and healthier. Crouching in dank basements is unhealthy.
3. BP give to give, not to get. Because giving away good to others is simply the right thing to do.
4. BP look for the good in others. They realize the truth of the statement that we usually find what we’re looking for.
5. BP express encouragement sincerely. They don’t flatter or lie. Okay, maybe except when I couldn’t think of anything good to say about one student’s essay, and all I could come up with was, ‘Cool font.'”
I know I have mentioned on the blog before that Kathryn Stockett’s The Help stands as one of the best novels I have read in the past few years. I loved the story of black maids in the 1960’s south so much that I used it in several composition classes at Georgia Southern. The book went over amazingly well, with many students telling me that they loved the book and would be passing it along to friends and family to read (and also telling me, disturbingly, that the book was the first one they had ever actually ever gotten all the way through). The book ENCOURAGES the voiceless to realize that yes, they too have voices.
In the twenty-second scene below from the movie version of The Help, Aibilene explains to her young charge exactly what the girl is, and what she needs to believe about herself. Oh, how our world would be beautifully improved if we would all see each other the way Aibilene sees Mae Mobley.
I challenge you to find someone today, tomorrow. Encourage. Lift up. See the good. Get in someone’s balcony.