Receiving Encouragement

Published December 11, 2012

In my last posting I shared the value and importance of encouragement and promised I would share at what point in my life and from whom I received the most valuable encouragement. It may seem difficult to determine one time frame or one individual or even what encouragement was given to make someone say that their life was changed. However I am confident that everyone upon personal reflection would agree there was a certain time, a certain individual who said just the right words of encouragement that was life changing for them. Perhaps it happened at a very early age as a child. Perhaps it occurred as a teenager or a young adult or maybe it was delayed into midlife. Sadly and unfortunately many are still lacking life changing encouragement even in their senior years.

As for myself I can honestly say I was encouraged throughout my life. There were many different individuals and many different times. Some were more pertinent, timely, and valuable than others. But after almost sixty years of life I can say I wished there had been more. But I can say emphatically there was a particular time and person who did change my life. A little personal history should explain this statement.

As a young boy caught up in the awfulness of divorce trying to figure out who I was and what my standing in society was proofed to be challenging. It was more often than not, hurtful and confusing. In that era, 1963, divorce was still looked upon with embarrassment and shame.  Society was not nearly as tolerant or understanding, nor was divorce as prevalent and common as it is today.

As a nine-year old boy I began to understand the great importance and value of encouragement. I saw how my mother’s heartache and misery was lessened with words of encouragement she received from her parents. Words such as, we love you, we are sorry for your heartbreak, we will help in any way we can, you can this, it will get easier with time. It was rare that a day did not pass that at least one word of encouragement was not given to my mother.

My grandparents, particularly my granddad also lavished me and my five siblings with wonderful words of encouragement. They managed to accomplish this while still raising two of their six children. After many years of thought and reflection only now do I have a sense of how important those words of encouragement were.

I did have a pretty happy time during those three years but they were also filled with times of hurt and confusion. My mother as most mothers did when faced with the reality of divorce returned to the city or town where her parents lived so they could receive help and support from them. The community my mother returned to was steeped in and controlled by a very legalistic and pious religion. I and my siblings had also been raised and taught their teachings and values and it would seem we would fit right in.  How ever this was not the case. My mother a divorced woman was deemed to be a sinful woman who was shunned and spitefully gossiped about. The gossip was useless and discouraging. Encouragement and praise in a difficult situation would have been the better course. To their credit not all members of the community or religion had this unwarranted, unjustified prejudice towards her.  But as her children my older brother and I often were referred to by our classmates as “bastards”. What a terrible word! I do hope they were speaking out of ignorance and did not have an understanding of how hurtful that title was. In today’s world it is used and bantered about like it is something to be proud of. In the sixties it was considered shameful and derogatory. If a person was given that title they were often ridiculed, mocked, and considered to be of little worth. It was not right then and it is not right now that children of divorce should be treated disrespectfully or made to feel they are inferior. Instead their lives should be filled with encouragement on a daily basis!

It was so confusing. I would attend church, Sunday school, and was given specific religious teaching all extolling God’s love and compassion. I was taught our good deeds, our compassion, and our piety would get is to heaven. What I did not understand was the lack of encouraging kind words. Nor could I understand the condemnation, the judgment, and the inferior status that was placed on people who did not meet a certain religious, moral or societal standard. I could not understand the separation of races particularly with in the church setting. Why my classmates and friends from the Navajo and Ute Indian race were to be shunned and treated differently was both confusing and painful. Some were my closest friends and it hurt when I was told not to associate or get to friendly with them. Discouragement was the norm when encouragement should have been the norm.

After my mother remarried we followed our stepdad (what a wonderful man he is) to a new town where he was given more work that also paid a higher wage. Taking on six kids that were not his own he certainly needed to make more! With this move came another challenging, awkward and yes, sometimes painful adjustment. We left one small community for an even smaller community. Although there was no controlling religious influence or prejudice in this community there was the never-ending and never-changing trying to “fit in”. As the new kid in town I was challenged, mocked and ridiculed until I somehow established myself to be acceptable. I became a teenager about a year after this move and of course I then had to prove myself to the older teenage crowd. Another round of mocking and ridicule followed. I never did feel like I belonged in that town! When my new dad had the opportunity for advancement and again the offer of higher wages with yet another move, I could not wait to get out of there. Just wasn’t a whole lot of encouragement in that place!

Next post, dealing with on going puberty, learning to drive, will I ever get out of high school, Vietnam, hippies, and free love?

Encourage someone, Dave

(Rev. David Larsen – Chaplain Compassion Nevada)

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