Ever been given a job you weren’t quite sure you could handle? Ever faced a situation you were pretty sure was too big for you? What did you do? Sometimes a little encouragement gets us a long way.
I worked as an outdoor education instructor for several months. I loved almost everything about that job. I taught orienteering, wall climbing, high and low ropes, group cooperative games, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, pond studies, sugar bush tours, etc. All the joys of being a teacher but no marking, no parents, no discipline. It ROCKED!
One of my favorite activities was teaching high ropes. These are a series of cables and ropes suspended between tall trees in the bush up to 30feet or 9metres in the air. We had a telephone pole suspended horizontally between two trees about 7ft in the air and I loved nothing more than to climb up after the students were done and do gymnastic dismounts off it.
The first day I was required to set up the high ropes course on my own (without my boss in the trees with me) was daunting. I stood on a platform close to 20feet off the ground in a tree looking down at my 6ft+ boss. He normally towered over me, but at that moment he looked quite small and distant.
I had to climb beyond the platform another ten feet to set up the highest element, and part of the task required me to hang on to the tree with my legs so my hands were free to set up the pulley and top belay rope for the students. Hard to explain, but trust me it was intimidating.
I got ready to climb, double-checking my gear (climbers are a paranoid lot), and hesitated. I wasn’t afraid of heights, I was afraid of failing. I was afraid I wasn’t up to the job and my boss was going to have to climb up and talk me down like we’d both done for students paralyzed with fright.
I peered around the tree and looked down. He was focused entirely on me, his climbing gear on the ground next to him. Spoke volumes of his trust that he didn’t even put his gear on. He shielded his eyes from the sun poking through the tree canopy above us.
“Do you really think I can do this?” I said and looked up at the remaining climb.
“Yep.” No hesitation in his voice, no wavering in his stance. He had complete confidence I could do this. His body language was an emphatic pat on the back. I finished the job without mishap.
A word well-spoken continues to encourage…
It then became my job to set up the high ropes course on my own. My boss’ confidence in me carried me through that first solo expedition, but also through a later near-disaster. I had set up the highest element and was on my way down the tree when my a sliding lock on my gear got stuck. I pulled out the pliers I kept on my belt for just such an occasion, and dropped them.
So, there I hung in a maple tree 25 feet in the air in the middle of the bush. I knew eventually the class would arrive and find me there, so rescue would not be long in coming, but I was desperate to spare myself the embarrassment. Then my boss’ encouragement came to me again. Can I do this? Yep. I took a deep breath, and tried the lock again. It came loose and I climbed down. Didn’t tell him I had been stuck up there or that I dropped my pliers until the day I had to rescue him for the very same reason. *grin*
My boss taught me many things, but one of his biggest legacies on my life was the importance of encouragement. Earned praise carries you a long ways, and someone’s confidence in your character and/or abilities is sometimes the final push we need to try something new, reach for the next goal, or step out on that limb and take a chance. Praise that’s earned but freely bestowed helps us in amazing ways, and having someone we respect put their confidence in us is something you can’t really put a value on.
Has someone encouraged you at just the right moment to help you succeed? Has someone’s trust or praise helped you do something you thought you couldn’t?
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