“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Wyatt Didden had just learned the children’s poem and hand motions to “Here is the church and here is the steeple; open the doors and see all the people.” Dan and Shelli Mortensen are Wyatt’s grandparents (a.k.a. Granny and Poppy) and they loved watching his newfound skill.
Slowly, both of them (Granny and Poppy) repeated the poem and the hand motions in front of Wyatt. He was transfixed and just as they finished he exclaimed, “Good job, Granny! Good job, Poppy!”
As Dan told us that story during a VFCC Administrator Retreat, he related how surprised he was by Wyatt’s encouragement. He received much more from his grandson’s outburst than he ever anticipated. The power of his encouragement was obvious.
That story became the catalyst for Dan to talk about the power of encouragement to us, his administrative colleagues. He asked the four of us who were with him to cite a meaningful word of encouragement that came to us. He began by telling us one more story.
He was in the middle of writing his Ph.D. dissertation. With his young family and full-time work responsibilities, he found himself saying to Shelli, “It’s just not worth it.” But because of Shelli’s encouragement at those times when he needed it the most, he continued writing and eventually earned the degree.
Jonathan spoke of a fellow university student who lived on his floor who encouraged him. His university had a health/fitness component which he had to reach to successfully matriculate. At a time when it seemed doubtful that he could reach his goal, this friend encouraged him to go to the gym and to be careful with what he ate. He actually lost 30 pounds and admitted that had Brent not been in his life, he probably never would have graduated from that university.
For Kevin, there were two people who encouraged him. He and his family were living in Bulgaria where their lives and responsibilities were anything but easy. Roland let him know that he believed in him and that he believed he could do what needed to be done.
Otis was the other person whose friendship and hospitality helped Kevin continue his graduate program to completion.
Jennifer was encouraged by Anthony, a fellow seminary student who later became her boss. Later, he asked her to return to her undergraduate university to represent the seminary. She agreed but only then did he say, “By the way, I have also arranged for you to address the student body in Chapel.”
We learned that this was Jennifer’s very first sermon and though she was extremely reluctant, Anthony’s encouragement helped her overcome her reluctance and fear.
As I look back on my life, my list of encouragers is long. Trying to identify one is like trying to identify which meal was my favorite last year or which of our two sons is my favorite. But I will always be indebted to family and friends and teachers and preachers who have encouraged me with the right word at just the right time.
Over the years I have received countless notes from students, and now former students, who graciously (sometimes too graciously) expressed their words of appreciation for something I said or something I did. Their reflections have usually come at just the right time to change everything.
But as I look back over my life, no one has had as profound an impact on me as my number one encourager – my wife, Evie. Whether it has been a few rain drops or a super flood, she has been my umbrella. Whether it has been a cloud or a tornado, she has been my shelter. Whether it has been a grain of sand or quicksand, she has been my rock.
The power of encouragement can change everything.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
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