Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The People That Encourage Us

Growing up near the city dark was relative. Streetlights flickering connected to a grid of a few million more all dancing to the beat of electrical currents. It was dark then, but never blindly so.

In the country a porch light after the sun diminishes is washed out by darkness rendered nearly useless. Stand outside in the country on a night when clouds cover the moon and your celestial views disappear. You can’t see anything tangible allowing for all the rest to arrive in front of you. All those emotions all the sudden transcend from a feeling to a color to an object standing right there in front of you. Reach your hand out and burn your fingers on the heat of your anger, or risk frostbite grasping the bitter cold that comes with being alone. In the black night a pulse can be felt, read even, that doles out memories with uncanny regularity. We become history students of our own mind.

In times like these our minds have priorities of their own, our thoughts become discourse, our minds the judges. We play out scenarios of the past, people no doubt, who somehow put us down. We wonder how we could prove them wrong, how we could impress them, how we could satisfy their often impossible demands of us. Like a wild tiger in a phone both, the panes of our fragile sensitivities are broken over and over, the phone rings to bring us out of this disastrous place, but tigers don’t know stop as well as they know go.

Sometime ago Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth fame wrote in an essay that we pay to go to concerts to watch other people believe in themselves.

Believing in ourselves, having the absolute faith we can do the unimaginable, we are ordained to be successful through the practice and patients that self-belief fuels. If only we knew where to get some?

A black chandelier sits in my garage, gorgeous and regal, it stood to make a wonderful addition to whatever room it graced. Problem is the chandelier arrived broken, a few pieces missing and thus it emits no light. Our thoughts of those we can’t please are a lot like my black chandelier, broken and useless, incapable of providing light. To think that entirely focusing on our detractors will get us to where we want to go is akin to the bookstore owner asking the librarian for advice on selling more books.

When running we can’t walk, when talking we can’t be silent, and when thinking of the negative we can’t fully embrace the positive in our lives, the great encouragers.

Great encouragers are often the last thanked at the party. They’re the ones we take for granted, as if they somehow owed us their encouragement. We say thanks to them, but do we really mean it? Do we realize the true power of their positive words?

Great encouragers are those that without immediate benefit offer support in praise regardless of our personal wellbeing. Great encouragers can be found among our family, friends, and even strangers in the street.

So many instances exist where great encouragers do their work, often without hoopla or bravado, they go about providing the love and assistance we all need in order to build that priceless thing known as self-confidence.

An email arrived late one evening a year ago, the subject something about writing, and the body something about how I made someone chase their dreams. I did the minimum, I thanked them, and never spoke to them again.

On the phone after a few hours of venting off frustrations from a summer filled with struggle my brother pointed out the possibility I haven’t ever embraced my true gifts. I agreed to get him to stop talking about it. Never did I mention how much it meant to me, not till now at least.

I got a text message not long ago from a friend I hadn’t talked to in a year, it in a roundabout way said their life was better with me in it.

Great encouragers innately are synced with our emotional clocks, they know when to say what and how. We often serve the same role to others.

A student once told me they wanted to drop out of college because they felt like they didn’t belong. I told them they were gifted, rattled off some initial ideas of what they could do with their life, and a year later they told me that’s why they stayed in school. I never heard from them again, I wonder where they are now?

Some years ago I dated a stripper for a few months, she hid her occupation from me out of embarrassment. When I found out we talked, and discovered that she had flawless math skills. Next thing I knew she’s done taking her clothes off for money, and now gets it from helping kids wrestle with numbers for standardized tests.

At a cocktail party this past weekend I told a young man I believed in his idea, his confidence grew before my eyes.

Did the writer pursue their passion because of my book? Did the friend really live a lonelier life without me? Would the stripper have quit without my tutoring pitch? Would the man chase his dream idea without my words? Who knows? If my words, something I’ve got a near unlimited supply of, even influenced any of the situations in the slightest towards the positive was it not worth saying to them?

We all might not have the abilities or personality for that matter to be great encouragers to others, but we all have the capacity to love, cherish, and embrace those that encourage us.

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