‘Oh I think that I found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her…’
I’m loving this song at the minute… OMI the cheerful artist in question, if I’m not mistaken. Please don’t ask me to recite all the lyrics to this current wee favourite. I can’t. But, I can vividly remember (and sing vaguely in tune – more X-Factor early shows than final style – the odd dance move potentially thrown in to entertain little Miss M) the line I quoted above.
It’s no wonder he’s happy – who isn’t with a cheerleader supporting and encouraging them on? In terms of daily life and living, clearly oxygen, food, water and sleep (ha ha ha …or insert caffine here as a substitute if sleep is a forgotten state!!) are all pretty significant and vital but, I truly believe that one of the most life-giving, reviving and sustaining necessities is that of encouragement. I think it is often an underestimated and undervalued gift that we can share but boy, is it necessary.
It’s so easy to have a little mental box of hurt, storing up the people who have let you down, the ones who didn’t remember it was your birthday or think that you’d want to be invited along anyway. When they didn’t have time to chat or even seem to want to be bothered with you. But, what about the people who have been there for you; the ones who did remember your birthday; the invitations you did receive? The ones who made the time to chat and who absolutely did want to be bothered with you? Why is it that we somehow find it easier to recall hurts than ‘happies’ (horrnedous word, I know, but hopefully you get what I mean). What about another box for the memory part of the brain? What about a mental box of encouragement?
I think that, over time, my understanding of ‘encouragement’ has changed. What I once thought of as being a kind of pat on the back, a ‘Keep on going’ or a ‘Well done!’ when you had achieved something, I now see very diferently. I still very much believe that those three things are forms of encouragement but, I also believe that it is so, so much more. And, what’s more, it can often come from some of the most unexpected places and people. You know those times when you walk away, put the phone down or finish reading and find yourself with a wee grin and a happy feeling in your heart? That kind word someone offered in an unexpected conversation; the wee card/e-mail/text to say someone was thankful for something you had done or was thinking about or praying for you. What about the smile or wave from the stranger in the street? The wee conversation in the queue?
So often today, we are totally caught up in social media and how people react to us on it. If posts aren’t liked or commented on by half the country, there is a perception that you’re just not making it. But, in reality, how many of the people we connect with viritually do we actaully have as active participants in our real, living, breathing lives – you know, the one that doesn’t involve a screen of some description? Honestly, so very often, I think it’s the encouragements we receive away from the public eye, from, in many cases, the most unexpected of people or places, that mean the most.
I’m learning, increasingly, the benefits of taking a deep breath and a moment sometimes and just thinking about the times when we have been really uplifted by the words or actions of another human being. I’m not saying it makes a bad day go away or that it fixes the situation that is frustrating or angering you right now but honestly, it does add a bit of perspective, for me anyway.
I believe that encouraging others is something we can all do – the only requirement needed is the ability to see others and to be aware of one very significant thing: we’re all humans with feelings and if you ever feel the need of a bit of encouragement, you can bet your bottom dollar they have too! (It’s all things ‘Annie’ here at the minute!) But don’t just sit around waiting to be encouraged; be an encourager to others. Look for little opportunities every day to be an encourager to someone – big gestures aren’t necessary. A friendly smile, a kind word, actually telling someone the positive thing you were thinking about them rather than silently keeping it to yourself.
One of my favourite verses is from Isaiah 40 vs 30 – 31: ‘Even young men grow tired and weary and old men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will rise on wings like eagles, they will walk and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ I believe that we can offer hope and uplift those we encounter with our words and actions. We can act in love and make a positive difference to people we encounter in our ordinary, everyday lives.
If, like me, you have taken a moment to appreciate the encouragements and kindnesses of others, you will know how uplifting it can be. Don’t waste the opportunity to bring a little sunshine into someone else’s life… a small gesture from you could very well be the reason someone feels the sun tomorrow. In true Annie style, let’s burst into song, grab our pom-poms (ok, probably not so much of the true ‘Annie’ there), but every cheerleader needs them, so let’s shake them with gusto as we step out into the world tomorrow… Who knows, maybe you could be the cheerleader that someone needs right at the time you are there for them! Give me an E, give me an N… Give me an opportunity to make a difference… Remember, we all can!