Thursday, July 26, 2012

30 Days of Encouragement: The Project (Part 1 of 2)

Back in June, I heard a wonderful message on encouragement. Our friend was the guest preacher on a Sunday morning and shared about Barnabas and "The Ministry of Encouragement". One concept that stayed with me was the idea that encouragement isn't about making people feel better, but rather this idea of inspiring people with courage.

What does this look like in regular, everyday life? I started thinking about it and hatched an idea for a 30 day "Encouragement Project". I made a list of 30 men and sent a card of encouragement each day to cheer one of them on, to inspire them. Yes, I sent actual notecards... with a stamp and everything! There were a few days missed, but I caught up. I also followed the list in the exact order that I created it. Interesting when, in hindsight, I saw the impact and timing for some.

I wasn't expecting any responses, but I did hear back from many of the people. Their responses (and mediums of communication) were varied. A few sought me out in person, several sent an email or a text, one even sent a card back to me. It was remarkable how my encouragement to others came back as encouragement to me. Here is a smattering of the responses.
  • "Did you have some kind of epiphany over vacation?"
  • "I find myself longing for San Diego... The people that I love are there." 
  • "I've been needing some encouragement lately (kind of reached an all time low this week)..." 
  • "It... made me feel really good."
  • "Can't say enough how much it meant to me - timing could not have been better for me to read it."
The wash of appreciation humbled me. Knowing that the words I had provided has given someone the inpiration they needed to believe in themselves. I didn't know that some of these friends were struggling... I just knew that they were great men. Each note began the same way, "Just a quick note of encouragement...", and included a quotation from Max Lucado,
"You are valuable just because you exist.  
Not because of what you do, or what you have done, but simply because you are."

Even though I didn't hear back from every person, I am fairly confident that they all arrived and had some kind of impact. As I reflect on the experience, I realized that around each and every corner was a potential 'moment'. Really, the chance an overflow of joy would expand and then encourage another. The people on my list were from multiple facets of my life: some childhood friends, some current students, some alumni, some colleagues, some interfraternal leaders that I am not terribly close to. People that had mentored me and people that I had mentored. What was remarkable was that even with that variety, I had no hesitation is sitting down to write a note of encouragement. During the entire project, my mind was never blank on what to write.

As I consider that fact, I felt a clear connection to the idea of Brotherhood/Sisterhood. How often do we, as a family, stop to encourage one another? If we really live the core value of Brotherhood/Sisterhood, isn't encouragement to be our very best selves a required component?

Sisterhood/Brotherhood: Within our Greek community, we share a set of common values in which we have instilled a support system to hold each other accountable to the utmost standards, ideals, and a healthy lifestyle.   Being a member of the Greek community, it creates a deeper bond of friendships and a sense of loyalty that provides an individual with a sense of family throughout one's lifetime.

As with any project of this nature, I learned a lot about myself and my priorities. The challenge to be less selfish/self-focused and more open to opportunities to encourage is still one that I am battling. If I live a values-based life, though, how could I not take on a Lifetime of Encouragement?

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