Encouragement. . . You can all do it

I left the world of full time everyday work about 5 years ago.  With that and my two boys growing up and somewhat out of the house as a college grad in the working world and the last one in college, I have found more time during the day to do things that I really wanted to do and couldn’t when I was operating a funeral home and having the roles of husband and father at home.

One of the things that I have really enjoyed doing in these last several years is really finding out who I am and figuring out how I can help others.  Two very special times in my day now are spent in reflecting in Scripture and self-help study.  I start my day reading and I end my day reading. . .and I really enjoy it.

At the end of the day I spend only about 5 minutes reading a daily lesson from football coach Tony Dungy’s book, “Uncommon Life Daily Challenge”.  The scripture based  book is excellent for men simply because the author relates to so many of the things that are common among us.  I would suggest it as a gift to any male person in your life. . . my wife jokes that I keep it on the “Best Sellers List”.

I was reading the April 3 lesson just the other day and it eventually reminded me of a man who is long gone in the funeral business but his encouragement to me – almost 40 years ago — still stands in my memory.  Dungy’s lesson for that day is about “Encouragement” and he points out that football coaching is a busy business during the fall when school is starting.

He points out that his assistant coach in Tampa, and later head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Jim Caldwell, felt really bad because the football season did not allow him to see his oldest daughter off to college properly.  He tried to make up for it by writing short notes of encouragement to her every day.  He wondered if his notes made any difference.  Then, when he finally got to visit her at college, he found all of his notes taped to her wall — every single one of them — and realized that he had not written enough.  His “encouragement”, and her ability to read those notes, was one of the things that had kept her going during that tough first year of college.

My memory in encouragement that I received comes from my Senior year in college when we were sent out to funeral homes in our last semester to do what were then called “Practicums”.  It was basically an unpaid work experience, much like an intern, in funeral homes across Minneapolis.  I remember a Friday late afternoon when the paid staff had just left the funeral home and a death call was received.  I made the removal and readied the body for embalming — something which I was not very proficient of  at the time.  It was a difficult case and I was worried about how my results would be.

At about that time, one of the managers of this large metropolitan funeral home, who was finishing up his duties late, stuck his head in the prep room to ask if I was okay.  I said all was fine but probably my demeanor gave another indication.  The next think I know is he has his jacket off and is putting on some gloves and saying, “I’ll stick around to give you a little encouragement”.  I’m guessing that he had a wife and children at home but encouraging a future industry employee was important to him also.  He watched me and gave me some advice for the next hour or so while I did the work.  And with that encouragement, I was able to do a satisfactory job.  That professional funeral director has passed away, and little does he know how that small act of encouragement has stuck with me over all these years.

My life today allows me to be introspective and find some time for myself, but  it also gives me time to encourage students and young business people in their endeavors and that gives me great satisfaction. . . . maybe satisfaction like that old time manager received from helping me.

So. . . today’s column is a little different than normal, but I don’t think any less important.  My advice is to encourage others in what they are trying to do. . . you will make a difference and maybe someone will remember you for the effort 40 years from now.

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