I once heard someone describe how, while traveling on a bus in Africa, where many roads look like something Americans would reserve for all-terrain vehicles, he’d had an unexpected encounter with the power of encouragement.
As the driver navigated the deeply rutted road, the passengers would repeatedly, and with great enthusiasm, cry out a phrase that sounded like “ay-kushay.” As the American man watched more carefully, he realized that this was a kind of cheer they made each time the driver successfully avoided a pothole.
His story brought to mind the friends I made when I lived in China. Seldom have I seen people work as hard, or live with so little. In addition to showing a generally uncomplaining and positive attitude, they demonstrated something whose effectiveness finally makes sense to me. As they’d wave me on my way, they’d unfailingly call out, “Do your best,” “Take your time” or “Enjoy yourself!”
It wasn’t until I got back to the United States and no longer heard these things that I realized how much I’d appreciated such sources of encouragement. They had a lovely sound to my ears — and my heart. And they were empowering.To “encourage” each other, meaning literally “to give heart”, is one of the most timelessly beautiful gifts we can share. Perhaps the very scarcity of encouragement in daily life is what has so many feeling weary, fearful, and uninspired. Parched, even.
Another good reason to cultivate encouragement is that its opposite, discouragement, tends to breed complaint and criticism like weeds. Falling prey to these leads nowhere new, and feels bad.
But surprisingly, practicing encouragement instead doesn’t require much more effort, beyond willingness to appreciate (i.e. increase) what feels good to our hearts, and let go of what does not.
Then there’s that surprise bonus of choosing encouragement and offering it freely: it mysteriously begins to feel like receiving it yourself, at the same time.
I love just when divine wisdom maximizes things in that very generous way.
Phyllis Edgerly Ring writes from her New Hampshire home. Her published work includes nonfiction (Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details) and fiction (Snow Fence Road). You can read her blog, Leaf of the Tree, by clicking here.