“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up . . .” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
When my dad was seven years old he used his savings to purchase some brushes, paints and a large stretched canvas (36”x42”) then stashed it all in the chicken coop behind his parents’ house. Every day he would sneak out there to paint, a picture intended to surprise his mother on her birthday. Soon, however, my grandparents became suspicious of his frequent visits to the henhouse suspecting some sort of mischievous activities. What they discovered was astonishing, a complete oil-on-canvas of “The Three Bears” walking up a path to Goldilocks’ house surrounded by a colorful background of green grass, puffy clouds and blue sky, and a ripply pond. A little primitive perhaps, but it was nevertheless quite an accomplishment for a seven-year-old.
My grandparents responded by encouraging him and arranged for private art lessons. Daddy studied art and painted prolifically throughout his youth and into his early twenties until he married and became busy raising a family and running a business. Later in life, though, with more time on his hands and a renewed interest, he once again studied art and painted vigorously, producing a whole new repertoire of paintings. Though none of his artwork ever became famous or monetarily valuable, his paintings remain cherished treasures within our family.
My dad’s greatest artistic legacy was not his collection of paintings, however; rather, as his parents had done for him, it was the encouragement he offered others in their artistic endeavors. There were times he would give away his own paints and brushes to someone else who he thought had promise as an artist.
Today “The Three Bears” painting hangs prominently in the entryway of our home as it has for many years. Every time I pass by it I have to chuckle about the story of my dad as a little boy sneaking out to the henhouse. But more than that I see it as a symbol of encouragement, which as every wise leader knows is the most positive motivator a leader can possess in his toolbox, and indeed one of the most precious gifts one person can offer another. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up . . .”