Canadian Geese have been absent from my local park for a few weeks. I thought they’d headed south for the winter but recently discovered that was not the case.
Several formations could be seen in the air near a large retention pond at the side of the highway. As I neared the pond, I was surprised to see the number of geese upon the water. There must have been hundreds of them.
It seemed that this was their practice area. I was fascinated to watch as small groups would take off, circle the area in ever widening loops, change leaders in their formation and land again. Honks of what I took to be encouragement and support, came from those on the water. It was as if they were cheering each other on.
Once again, the geese were showing me the importance of community. They were preparing to take off on an important journey and time spent practicing together would help ensure a more successful trip.
What do you do when you’re preparing for a challenging new part of your life’s journey? Do you stress and attempt to figure it out on your own? Or, do you seek advice and encouragement from those who understand and support your goal?
I have had others come alongside me when the route to my destination was unclear. Sometimes they had previously travelled this way and were willing to share what they had learned. Other times I was asked questions that helped me gain clarity. Always, their encouragement enabled me to reach new heights.
It is my desire to be part of a supportive community for others. I’m happy to encourage and pay forward what I have learned. My support in helping someone prepare for takeoff helps both of us to soar.
I first published this story several years ago. It seemed fitting to share it again today.
As seasons change and the weather cools down, we see geese flying south for the winter. We hear their honking and see that familiar V formation in the sky.
I’m sure that most of us have heard the reasoning for this formation. Scientists have discovered that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in V formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. If a goose falls out of formation, it feels the drag and resistance of flying alone and quickly rejoins the formation.
Did you know that the reason the geese honk from behind is to encourage the others to keep up their speed? Also, when the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back and another takes its place as lead.
There are so many lessons for us here. First, people sharing a common direction can get where they’re going quicker and easier by traveling together. We should keep company with those heading in the same direction as us. Second, it makes sense to take turns doing the hard jobs and to remember to encourage those taking the lead.
Another thing about geese is when one gets sick or injured and falls out of formation, two others follow it down for protection and help. They stay together until it is either able to fly, or dead, and then they launch out again. They either fly on their own or join with another formation until they catch up to their group.
The final lesson here is to stand by each other. We should protect and care for each other. It is also good to make new friends who seem to be going in our direction.
If we follow the same guidelines as these geese, how much better would our lives be?
The words came from behind me. I heard, “That’s good,” then, “Magnificent.” After a slight pause came, “Really nice.”
I only had to wait a few moments to see who was the recipient of this encouragement. A young boy rode past me on his bicycle. He wobbled a little. A slightly older brother followed closely and continued his support and encouragement as they carried on down the path.
The words of one gave confidence to his brother to keep going. These boys were a perfect example of the impact our words can have on each other.
Later, on another area of pathway, I came across words written in coloured chalk. They said, “You are loved.” The child who wrote these words brightened my day and probably that of many others as well.
Our words have the power to wound, discourage and anger. They can also bring healing, support, and a sense of well-being. In these troubled and uncertain times, I have observed too many cases of words used as weapons.
I am reminded of a passage in the Bible where it says, “they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” In today’s language, this would say, beat their swords into shovels and their spears into hoes.
To me, this shows our weapons can be modified into tools used to cultivate a better life. Instead of attacking each other, we can work together for the common good.
Like it or not, my words will have an impact on others. Do I want them to cause hurt and dissention or do I want them to offer encouragement so we can work together to create a better future? The decision is up to each of us. I’ve made my choice, how about you?
“Look at the giant bench,” I said. “I wonder if I can climb up and sit on it.” My husband would have helped me if I’d asked but I wanted to see if I could do it on my own. At first it didn’t seem possible and I almost gave up. Brian gave me some encouraging words, I tried again and succeeded.
My legs were swinging in the air as I sat there, feeling impossibly small. A few minutes later, after the photo op, my feet were back on solid ground. We walked on, leaving the big white bench behind us.
It wasn’t until I was going through pictures a couple of weeks later that the bench came back to mind. My first reaction was to laugh at the amusing picture. Then, I wondered if the image was a fitting analogy of my life.
Have you ever been overwhelmed by your circumstances? I certainly have. At times like this my problems seem large and often insurmountable. My pride tells me I must deal with them on my own. It would be embarrassing to let anyone else know what is going on. As a result, I am left feeling small and inadequate.
Every bump in the road feels like a mountain to be scaled. How long will I struggle alone before walking away frustrated and defeated? Self-doubt floods my mind and I feel small and worthless.
There is an alternative. I can ask for help. In the past this was viewed as weakness but now I know it takes strength to reach out let someone know of my struggle.
Sometimes, like when I wanted to climb on the big bench, a bit of encouragement is all that is needed. Other times I’m offered a new way to approach my situation or a helping hand to get me through.
Instead of feeling small, let’s help each other rise to greater heights.
I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot, together we can do great things. – Mother Teresa
Over the past year or so I’ve been hearing quite a bit about a sport called pickleball. Some of you may be familiar with it but until recently it was new to me.
I was intrigued to hear this promoted as a game for all ages and fitness levels and wanted to learn more.
Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. It can be played as singles or doubles. I was never good at tennis but enjoyed badminton and table tennis so this may be a possibility for me. When I learned the court is half the size of a tennis court, I was even more interested.
My husband and I went to watch someone we knew play in a tournament. A game or two stretched into several hours as we enjoyed observing and learning from this game.
Some of what I saw on the court would serve me well in life. While each team wanted to win, they didn’t take themselves too seriously. We would hear joking and encouragement and not criticism when someone made a mistake. A positive attitude and support for their partner made the difference between stress and enjoyment. I know this in my head, but the visual reminder was appreciated.
The players were scrupulously honest. They would call errors on themselves, even though it meant a point for the other team or loss of the game. It didn’t matter if anyone else had seen the fault or not. Integrity such as this is something I strive to be known for.
During the tournament, we saw teams that had been eliminated now cheering for the team that had defeated them. The sportsmanship and values portrayed convinced me that no matter my athletic ability, being in this kind of a pickle is a very positive thing.
My friend’s baby is learning to walk. She started by pulling herself up on a piece of furniture and moving down the length of it. Having the furniture for support helped her gain confidence.
Holding onto mom’s fingers was another way to walk from one spot to another. One day the time came for her to take a step without holding onto anything for support. This was risky and took a lot of coaxing. After a tentative step forward, she fell. The look of surprise on her face could have easily been followed by tears and a refusal to try again.
Instead, mom quickly scooped her up, praised the effort and stood her on wobbly legs again. Encouragement and cheers followed with every step and every fall. Before long the steps were more frequent than the falls. It won’t be long before she is ready to move from walking to running.
The same principle holds true for us. We expect to take off running when we start something new. This is unrealistic and leads to frustration and discouragement. There are times when the falls are so frequent I wonder if I should give up.
Past experience has taught me I learn best when I take baby steps and celebrate each small success. When I attempt to master new skills the support and encouragement of others can help me get back on my feet and take a few more steps forward.
This may be repeated many times before I can move quickly and confidently in this new area. When it feels like I’m not moving fast enough I remind myself that baby steps will get me farther than if I didn’t take any steps at all.
My beloved Aunt Evelyn passed away a few days ago. She would have been 98 in December and lived a long, full life.
To celebrate her life and the legacy of love and wisdom she passed on to me I’d like to share a couple of stories with you.
I clearly remember a conversation I had with Evelyn when I was a young mother. My ten-year high school reunion was approaching and I told her I was embarrassed to go. You see, many of my friends had gone on to higher education and were now nurses, teachers and lawyers. I’d married young and was a stay at home mom with two children. Would I be looked upon as unsuccessful?
My aunt pointed out the importance of my role as a mother who was involved in her children’s lives. She reminded me that as a Brownie leader, I was also building into other lives. By the end of our talk, I saw the value in who I was instead of thinking about who I wasn’t. One of my goals in life now is to help people believe in themselves. I wonder if it stems back to the encouragement I received that day.
Twelve years ago I moved to a different province and was no longer able to see Evelyn on a regular basis. Once a year I would make the trip back to visit. Although her health had declined in the past few years, her mind remained sharp. We enjoyed good talks and lots of laughter. At the end of one visit, she looked me in the eyes and said, “I may never see you again, but today has been nice, hasn’t it?”
It was a bittersweet moment with a wonderful lesson on enjoying the time we have today. Right now is all we can be certain of and we need to make the most of it. Give the hugs; pay the compliments, say, “I love you.”
This is how I choose to remember my Aunt Evelyn. I know that every time I practice living in the moment I will be honouring the memory a wonderful woman who freely shared her love and wisdom with me.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)
Isn’t it amazing how sixty seconds can seem like forever sometimes? Other times that minute attaches to others and they fly by so quickly we wonder where the time went.
In a seminar setting, I asked a question and then gave one minute for the response. This was timed and most people were surprised by how long a minute seemed to take.
It reminded me of the time I told my young granddaughter, “I’ll be there in a minute.” She looked at me and said, “Is it going to be a long minute or a short minute?”
I guess it all depends on what we are doing in that minute. When I am engrossed in a project or doing something I enjoy, the minutes fly by all too quickly. If I’m waiting in a lineup they seem to take much longer.
The best use of my time is to spend it on someone else. I took a minute and sent a text message to a friend to say I appreciated her. The response I received said my message had encouraged her when she was feeling down. That was time well spent.
This was a reminder to invest my time wisely rather than squander it. Sometimes it only takes a minute to make a difference in someone’s life. Got a minute?
The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is. C.S. Lewis
The key is in not spending time, but in investing it. Stephen R. Covey
A favourite song of mine has the words, “There is a candle in every soul; some brightly burning, some dark and cold.” It goes on to tell us to take our candles and go light the world.
A recent experience illustrated this in a simple but powerful way.
I arrived for a scheduled a book reading at a senior’s residence to find only two people in attendance. The low number was unusual but the reason behind it soon became clear.
After I read a couple of short stories, one woman tentatively told me that she was a writer. She’d taken courses and written short stories but didn’t have the confidence to share them. The other person drifted out of the room and I had the privilege of giving my full attention to the one remaining.
She told me about the depression she suffered and that some days she couldn’t bring herself to get out of bed. Medical issues were part of this, but deeper were the feelings that she was not making a meaningful contribution to life.
I gave her the gifts of listening and encouragement. By the time I left she was excited about returning to the stories she’d started several years ago and promised to share some with me on my next visit. I gave her a hug and she told me it felt like she had a new friend.
My time had the effect of using my candle to ignite hers. Now she is able to shine. It wasn’t a momentous event and didn’t take much time. My candle is burning brighter as a result. Together our light will brighten the world.
How will you take your candle and go light the world? I’d love to hear your stories.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV)
The owner of the store I work in is known for the amazing gift baskets she creates. When she wanted to teach me how to do them, I panicked. Feeling that I don’t have a flair for that sort of thing had me terrified to even attempt it. As she guided me through the creative process, I secretly hoped the day would never come when I would have to make one on my own.
Through her encouragement and belief in me, I slowly gained confidence. Then the fateful day came when it was necessary for me to create a basket completely on my own. The fact that I enjoyed picking out and arranging the items in the basket surprised me. After wrapping it and making a bow, I stood back and admired what I had created. I even took a picture of the finished product! The saying “I didn’t know what I could do until I did it” came to mind.
Thinking about this, I realize how many times I have been stopped in my tracks by something I thought I couldn’t do. Now I realize that just because it’s something I’ve never done before, doesn’t mean I can’t do it! When I stop and pray about the situation, Jesus guides me every step of the way. Through Him, I am able to accomplish far more than I ever thought possible. When those negative, “I can’t do it” thoughts enter my mind, I just need to think of the gift baskets and remember that all things are possible through Christ Jesus.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV)
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NLT)