My son has been taking individual swimming lessons and had to pass a swim test to enter swim school. When he passed, I gave him a hug and told him how proud I was. In an important tone he said, “I just remembered what Uncle D told me – that I was brave and strong - so I did it.” I smiled. That was two months ago and he is still holding onto those powerful words.
Words are effective. Whoever composed the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” – Here's the thing...they were wrong. Words are effective; bad or good. Encouraging words can be the key to unlock potential and release power in an individual.
On the Fourth of July weekend, we vacationed with two other families and my son met “Uncle D” for the first time. Uncle D and my son bonded instantly. We had rented a boat to fish, swim and Jet Ski. At my son’s reluctance to try anything that the big kids were doing, Uncle D would talk to him and tell him how “brave” and “strong” he knew that he was. Armed with a life jacket my son fearlessly jumped in the lake with Uncle D and rode on the Jet Ski with my husband; he ended up having one of the many “best days of his life”.
On the next day we went to Busch Gardens. I hadn’t told my son where we were going. I already knew that his past two carnival ride experiences had not been on his list of “to do it again”, so I didn’t want to stress him out. We just told him that the place where we were going was going to be “fun”. When we approached the park and he saw a Roller Coaster from the parking lot, he said, “Oh no, there is no way I am getting on that!”
While we stood in line as a group to ride “Apollo's Chariot” you could see his face fill with apprehension. I explained that we were all going to take turns and he didn’t have to ride. He was still concerned and told me to “Be safe” when it was my turn. He wondered if I really enjoyed it when we met on the other side. Despite our laughing, he was having no part in our excitement. He partnered up with Uncle D as we walked to find the next ride. When the kids were getting on something less intimidating (The Trade Wind) and my son met the height requirement, he said, “Mom I’m going to try that ride”. He took the hand of one of the teenagers and bravely went on. My poor kid, I could see him crying and holding on for dear life. When the ride slowed down, I silently prayed, “Please don’t go backwards". It didn’t. When he got off the ride and came to me he told me that he was "never going to do that again". He was more upset that Uncle D was going to be disappointed. He was disappointed in himself. He said to me, “Please don’t tell Uncle D that I cried”. As soon as we met up with the guys, my son went to Uncle D with his head down and said, “I got on a ride but I wasn’t brave and I cried a little”. Uncle D gave him a high-five and said, “But I’m proud of you for trying. That WAS brave!” Those words brought out a big smile, and my son was light on his feet for the rest of the day.
We all rode with him on “Europe in the Air” a flight simulated ride. While this ride made everyone else feel a little green, my son thought it was “AWESOME”. Before leaving the park we also rode the train and he had another, best day of his life.
I can almost guarantee the words “brave and strong” would work only once as it applies to trying anymore rides in an amusement park; but they have been lasting words of encouragement as my son applies their meaning to other aspects of his life.
Many thanks to "Uncle D" and those who share the same gift of encouragement! May good words come back to bless you.
Kenya G. Johnson