June 27, 2013

The gift of encouragement

One of my favorite ways to spend my time is encouraging others. I don't know if that's a function of my essential laziness, that I would rather goad others into fulfilling their potential so I don't have to? Perhaps lazy isn't the right word, but rather efficient. I figure it's more productive to encourage 10 folks to do something than me try to do the work of 10. But the seeds of encouragement were planted  when I was still in high school, by a very special classmate.

In high school, I dated a wonderful boy. He was so smart, so talented, and his heart was huge. We went to the Sadie Hawkins dance together, although I admit I asked him as a buddy. He was so crestfallen when I asked and it wasn't romantic. Teenagers are masters of mixed signals. Typical J. Geils song stuff. He liked me, but I liked another, and someone else liked someone else. I don't even remember it all. I'm rapidly getting off track. The boy agreed to go to the dance with me and he pulled out all the romantic stops to change my friendly invite to a romantic one. I admit, it worked, and what started as a friendship turned into a sweetheart thing.

Anyway, one morning, he got my locker combination from someone and I got to school to find my locker stuffed with candy, a little figurine and a letter. Believe it or not, I saved the letter and ceramic figurine. It was about ENCOURAGEMENT. (when I share some of its contents, you'll understand why I've held onto it.)

from William Barclay: One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement. It is easy to laugh at men's ideals, it is easy to pour cold water on their enthusiasm; it is easy to discourage others. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet. Blessed is the man who speaks such a word. 
RIP Petehis own words: Sun shines where love grows. Change is often desirable, frequently necessary and always inevitable. All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today. Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. All the wonders you seek are within yourself. Celebrate life one day at a time. Never let yesterday use up today. Remember yesterday, dream about tomorrow, but live for today. May your day be filled to overflowing with all that makes you happiest. To love someone is to always show them new ways to grow. 

We broke up but remained friends, distantly. I don't remember how or why we broke up. He was light years ahead of me at 17 and I didn't get the maturity of his words or thoughts.

His second year of college, he committed suicide. I can only guess the reasons, as we had not stayed in touch. I wish I could ask him. I wish he could tell me why he no longer believed in how amazing he was. One of the biggest stresses in his life was what direction to go. He was that brilliant that he had perfect scores on everything. He was on a full ride scholarship and he had no idea what direction to take.

I don't know why but it still breaks my heart. I found his letter recently when I moved my office downstairs. I realized how much his words shaped my life. I suppose a piece of him lives in me. I like to think so, anyway. He may never know how much his words changed how I approached the world, but they did. I'll always remember him.

Thanks, Pete.

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