Word Count: 1346
Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes
“Relationships reflect the support, encouragement, and care that they get.” – Anonymous
Dad To the Rescue
After performing well in his heats for the 400m at the 1992 Olympics, Derek Redmond lined up for the semi-final, hopeful and confident of qualifying for the final and making it to the winner’s podium. But, as the race was coming to its final leg and Derek in good positioning to reach the final, he felt a pop in his hamstring bringing him to a complete stop, ending his Olympic dream. Believing he could still make the final, he attempted to limp to the finish but it quickly turned to an activity in futility.
From the crowds, a man broke past security and onto the track. It was Redmond’s dad, Jim, coming to help his son. Redmond may have been last in the race but the support and encouragement of the crowd showed he was first in their hearts. It was the ultimate expression of support, encouragement, and care.
Just as a room needs a thermostat to regulate its internal temperature at conducive levels, relationships need the regulators of Support, Encouragement, and Care (S.E.C) to sustain growth in them. Using stories from my personal life, I will show the impact of Support, Encouragement, and Care to strengthen relational chords and create a synthesis with former Harvard Business Review editor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter who said, “Friendly people are caring people, eager to provide encouragement and support when needed most.”
At a men’s retreat in the summer of 2015, I shifted my leg to avoid a tackle in a soccer game. The awkward shift resulted in an audible snap in my left leg. Suddenly, I was on the ground in pain, unable to put any weight on my leg. The men at the retreat did their best to help me get on my feet but we realized a visit to the emergency room was imminent. At the nearest hospital, the doctor did some tests and diagnosed me with a severe sprain. It was a few weeks later when a specialist confirmed that the snap was a break in my left tibia and required surgery.
After surgery, I was remanded to bed rest for a week and needed crutches to get around as my leg healed. My mobility was limited. At the time my wife was seven months pregnant. Despite her state, she helped me do the things I couldn’t do on my own. She was a superstar!
Without hesitation, the members of our church rallied around us. They made sure everything was taken care of while I recovered and my wife could only do so much. They brought their best to a tough situation and it made all the difference! Needless to say, we were buoyed by their presence.
From that experience I learned that having a support system is like having a rainy day money fund. You never know when you will need it but you are grateful when you do.
Don’t take for granted the friendships you have. Nurture them by giving your support any moment you can. Be someone’s rainy day fund without ever wondering if they will be yours. I have learned from firsthand experience that simply showing up may be all the support and encouragement people need. Through support you are never a helpless bystander but you exemplify this statement by prolific NBA scorer Giannis Antetokounmpo, “If I can’t score, I do whatever I can to support my teammates.” Little support can accomplish big things!
When I began running I could barely make it through one mile without my chest burning like an overheated car radiator. I thought there were days when I would just pass out from pure exhaustion. What kept me going was the encouragement from my friends who ran with me and were in better shape. They would slow down to run alongside me and they spoke words like, “keep breathing”, “you are doing great”, “ you are almost there”, and “you have come too far to quit.” I must admit there were days I hoped it would rain cats and dogs, giving me a default excuse from running.
The encouragement my friends gave me those early days were the fuel I needed to get over the hump and habit of not running. Eventually my body responded. Their encouragement deposited motivation and awakened a dormant passion for running which years later has become an activity I enjoy not just endure. When it rains, I am saddened not elated like those earlier days. My running accomplishments such as completing my first half marathon a year ago rest on the rich ground of encouragement that my friends laid. I am forever grateful to them. It is those seeds that have become the fruit I feast on as I prepare for my next running goal of completing a full marathon this year.
Never forgo an opportunity to fuel someone with encouragement. It has been known to carry people through seasons of great fatigue. Become an encouragement filling station in your relationships and you will ensure that others never run on empty. But you can hardly encourage without caring first.
Last week on Valentine’s day my mum was paid a visit by the bank she has banked with for almost 35 years. With a card and a bouquet of flowers, some tellers who have served her, came to show appreciation for being a faithful customer. I have never heard such an extension of care from a bank. And it’s not that my mum keeps large sums of money there. They simply wanted to do an act of care to show their gratitude. The bank must have known what President Theodore Roosevelt noted, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
I was touched by this because no one deserved this more than my mum. In 2012, my dad passed away after a prolonged battle with brain tumors. When he was first diagnosed, a subsequent surgery was required to remove the tumors. But after a few years, the tumors grew back and a second surgery was not sufficient to eradicate the tumors and my dad’s healthy quickly deteriorated after they came for my wedding in 2007. When I visited my parents in Kenya in 2010 my dad was bed ridden. My mum had taken on the role of breadwinner and caretaker. Against the advice of doctors and some friends, my mum chose not to take my dad to a nursing home but decided to care for him at home until his last day. When I asked my mum about it she told me, “The good years I have spent with your father will not allow me to leave him to another person’s care when he needs me most.” Later the doctors and friends admitted the great job my mum did in caring for my dad until his death. She was able to do it based on experience as a nurse earlier in her career life.
She clearly demonstrated the “for better or worse, in sickness and health, till death do us part” portion of their vows. It is this attitude of care modeled for me that I have worked daily to repeat in my marriage. The greatest struggle with showing care is the risk that it won’t be reciprocated. But when care is genuine your heart goes out to another without any consideration for what you will get in return. It is purely selfless. One of the greatest cellist of all time, Pablo Casals observed, “I feel the capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest significance.”
Final thought: The Redwood tree (pictured above) is one of the strongest and tallest trees. But its strength lies beneath the surface. Their roots intertwine with each other to provide strength through support and necessary nutrients to foster what we see above the surface. They can sustain strong winds because of this intertwining root support system. The success of our relationships can be traced to the intertwining effect of support, encouragement, and care.
Keep on Keeping on!