When I was a teen, my golf coach, James Black, used to say, “Muscle memory, young man, muscle memory,” as he stood in front of me and held my head still while I learned the art of the swing. He was and is a kind soul. I had a nice swing, but he knew that I didn’t have the tools to be a great golfer. He was more interested in my spirit. Like me, Mr. Black, as I still like to call him, is a Charlotte, N.C. native.
These days, instead of encouraging me in my golf swing, he tells me that I’m “precious.” As one of the first African-American golfers to earn a Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour card, he has much to be bitter about because black golfers in those days endured unspeakable discrimination and abuse from white golfers who had half the talent of golfers like James. Yet, Mr. Black isn’t bitter. He tells me, “I love you and there ain’t a thing you can do about it.” Mr. Black is called to encourage, and he still emboldens me some 39 years later.
Sometimes, encouragement is a matter of just a few words … or none at all. Perhaps someone recently gave you a “thumbs up,” either in person or on social media. My Little League coach, Mr. Woodard, used to yell, “Chunk that rock!” as I stood on the pitcher’s mound and ripped them past the batters, one by one. So many persons have made a difference for me at key points in my life. My middle school English teacher, Miss Stenhouse, thought I was a good writer. She had the thick, voluptuous lips that women would kill for, chestnut hair that danced on her delicate shoulders, and awesome brown eyes. She was 21, and I was 14. I was already spellbound, but when she gave me an “A” on my writing essay and complimented me, I was done for. My heart still skips a beat when I remember.
Who needs your encouragement? Keep in mind the difference between advice and encouragement. One imparts specific information, solicited or unsolicited. The other is a warm summer breeze that blows across your bow as you attempt forward movement. It is superior to advice in so many ways, not the least of which is spiritual. When we encourage, we begin the wonderful process of positive endorphin release in the other person’s brain, something that can trigger new beginnings.
Don’t be shy. Your encouragement may very well carry someone a long, long way.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!