During my last summer at Deerfoot many campers and staff members wrote notes to me in specially prepared notebooks. Certain themes were found in the notes, regardless of the age of the author. One of these: encouragement.
Thanks for “giving me encouragement when I needed it”. “You encouraged me when you trusted me.” “your words of encouragement and guidance”. “Your staff meetings were encouraging and challenging”. “Thanks for being so supportive of me when”. “Thank you for spending the time to walk with me and to listen to me”. “Thank you for spending time to share with me…” “thanks for all the time you”
I had the privilege of helping those seeking their master’s in canoeing with their canoeing strokes. Over and over again notes included words of appreciation for this time with me. They appreciated this time because I was focused on them – just them. I pushed the campers and staff to perfection, and if a person I was working with had trouble with a particular stroke, I changed places with them so they could see how the stroke should be done. And yes, there were times when I had trouble with the stroke they were struggling with. I remember demonstrating the reverse J, when a gust of wind caught me off guard….and over I went! We all laughed!! Very seldom did a person pass his Master’s canoe strokes on the first or second time. My challenge was always to encourage, to inspire. The camper or staff member knew I cared about them – that I wanted them to get it right…and that they could…and eventually they did!
The W. Clement Stone Foundation demonstrated that it took two affirmations to overcome one negative/critical statement in the building of a healthy self image. DL does a wonderful job of giving to camper’s positive reinforcement. Most of us seek to do our best…and always fall a little short. At DL, the focus was on…”you are doing it” “it’s coming” “YES” – or in DL lingo: “BOSS!!!” Seldom does criticism inspire greatness.
Almost every camper leaves Deerfoot Lodge on a self-confidence high. “This was awesome!” “See you next year!!!”
I worked hard at helping each staff member experience the best summer of their life while at DL. The Section Chiefs, my assistant and I had the challenge of keeping every staff member in the situation where they would succeed – but where they would really have to work to do it: to keep staff members in their stretch zone, not their comfort or panic zone. When a staff member did well in a situation to the place of “being comfortable”, the staff member was moved to a different responsibility. If a staff member did not do well in one area, the challenge was to move them into an area where they could do well. Perhaps a counselor would do better as the assistant to a section chief, or on the maintenance or kitchen staff, or to head up the craft shop – anything but send him home defeated! If a person was working at DL…and not doing well, it was my fault! I hired him. I placed him in his position. I was ultimately responsible for his development. Each staff member needed to feel they had enjoyed a wonderful, successful summer at DL. An easy summer? I hoped not! Leave encouraged? I sure hoped so!
All of us who read this do so from the perspective of being a spouse, parent, grandparent, brother, friend, employee or employer, church member or pastor. What can we do to encourage those around us? It will take thoughtfulness to bring encouragement which is genuine and appropriate and will be well received. Being an encourager requires developing the mindset – and the self-discipline. It is easy to be critical of almost anything! No practice required!
When we live In Partnership With God, we bring good news – and good news is much more than God’s plan of salvation. It is the assurance that when God made each of us, He made us in His image. Yes, sin messes us up…but God desires to help us become like Himself.