The root of the word courage is coeur, the French word for heart. The prefix en means to put in. So, encouragement is to put the heart in.
It’s so often true that when things are going well, we don’t think about how much we might need it or how much someone else would benefit from it.
We get wrapped up in our own lives, thinking about all that we have to get done – so many important things.
And we forget just how important it is both to us and others.
Encouragement is a form of love shared in the wink of an eye that emerges from the awareness we have developed to see its need. It can make all the difference in someone understanding something about themselves that changes their life for the better or sometimes just to help them adjust course.
I was just married and in England on our honeymoon.
We traveled to Scotland and Wales then came down to London to stay with my new in-laws since I had only met them about a week before the wedding.
The same week, a Japanese soldier who had been hiding in the bush for thirty years emerged to find that the war was over.
Having missed reading a few of the classics growing up, I thought his name was Quasimoto. I wondered at how strange he must have felt after so many years in hiding and not knowing how much the world had changed.
The one thing about marriage that I never expected was how hard it was to give up my name. I was surprised by that and couldn’t really articulate those feelings very well. I felt strange as well.
A dinner party was given in our honor. The house was filled with friends and acquaintances of my in-laws. As I met different people, they asked me how it felt to be Mrs. Bassett-Powell (my new married name).
I responded that I felt like Quasimoto, thinking they knew the soldier’s story, and they would understand just how strange I was feeling.
I was met with either stunned silence with a quick exit or the words: “Ohhh, quite.”
Finally, my new husband came over and asked me if I knew who Quasimoto was. I responded with my theory that he was that soldier who had just found out that he had been hiding too long.
Bruce told me that Quasimoto was the hunchback of Notre Dame and that everyone was looking at my back.
Of course, I was mortified. At that moment, I didn’t think I could overcome my complete embarrassment.
Once that misunderstanding was cleared up, I found that the next thing that happened was an outpouring of love and understanding of someone young. The kindness poured forth, not missing a beat. The party went on to great success.
I can’t imagine the conversations that occurred on the way home from that party, but now I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to hear them.
The generosity extended by those who never met me but who were willing to forgive a silly error to offer welcome and hospitality made all the difference.
Encouragement is honestly better for the giver than the receiver. Still, you might never know that until you have started getting pretty good at noticing when the opportunities for it present themselves.
These are the moments that often go unnoticed unless you can become a very good observer.
Since we live in a bootstrap culture that is uncomfortable with raw emotion, they show up in offhand statements like: “I’m having a tough time, I haven’t been feeling so great, I’m starting divorce proceedings, today is the anniversary of _______’s passing.”
On the surface, these are words we hear all the time. If we become more alert, we find opportunities to share our love, support, and courage.
It’s important to remember that there is no timetable for grief, that divorce is the end of a relationship and the end of the definition of one family and the important events shared. Remember that the courage needed for caretaking or life altered drastically takes more courage than is available in a particular moment. And this is especially true for the young and inexperienced who so often make deductions about their ability when they don’t know what to do.
These times are opportunities for sharing joy, for sharing your courage in a moment when someone needs to borrow some. They are opportunities that inspire us to be our better angels.
Encouragement is the opportunity for thanksgiving. It widens our ability to be human and expands the definition of our humanity.