“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. . .” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Who have been the great encouragers in your life? When I think about that B.F. Jordon often comes to mind. He was one of my teachers in middle school (junior high school we called it back then) who eventually got promoted to principle. Mr. Jordon, as we called him, had this amazing ability in a sort of tough-love, non-judgmental, sometimes humorous way of encouraging every one of his students regardless of academic ability, race, or social status. Even in early adulthood I would often go back to visit with him, always coming away feeling in some way encouraged. We all need that, don’t we?
So, if we all need that, who then are you an encourager to? As a grandfather I quickly learned that my job is not to be another parent, they receive good parenting from the ones they have. Instead, my job is to encourage, cheerlead, model, and affirm. This school year one of our granddaughters qualified for an honors program requiring her to get up especially early in the morning, not an easy task for a teenager. Many mornings I send her a silly text message at 5:45 a.m. to make sure she is up. It is sort of a prank on my part, but what is not a prank is that it is a way of encouraging her and cheering her on.
Encouragement is a powerful motivator, not only in the formation of young lives, but for everyone at every age to be better, to feel better, and to perform better. It was in 1994 that Erin Gruwell started her first teaching job as an English teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, a racially mixed school plagued by gangs and violence. Yet, as told in the 2007 movie Freedom Writers Erin was able to transform her classroom and the lives of her individual students by encouraging them to write down the tragic stories of their lives and subsequently share those stories with each other. Over time these diverse classmates were transformed from bitter enemies to intimate friends, most of them successfully completing high school, and many going on to college.
Far from being plagued by gangs and violence, my small-town school could hardly be compared to Woodrow Wilson High School in 1994. But, B.F. Jordan and Erin Gruwell had much in common, both being encouragers. If only, I pray, I am half the encourager with my grandchildren as those two teachers demonstrated; for encouragement is a powerful motivator. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”