The Reflection at tonight’s Celtic service made me think of our fitness trainer, Jim. In only three weeks, we have become devoted to him. Jim knows his business and is able to teach what he knows in a very clear manner. He’s watchful, making sure that we don’t hurt ourselves and that we don’t slack off from what we are capable of doing. He doesn’t let us get away with a thing. And when Jim says “Great form!” or “That’s kickin’ it, Sharon!” or “Excellent pace,” I straighten up and reach higher and move faster and try harder. He’s a cheerleader, Jim is, but his cheers are sincere and they mean something. No automatic “Good job!” from him. (Oh, the ubiquitous and too-often patronizing “Good job!” A lot of mothers and teachers tend to roll those out like jellybeans, just for breathing in and out. It’s another version of “Have a nice day.” And I think that deep down the kids know it. How about something specific?)
I was thinking tonight about all the times that we just want someone to notice how hard we’re trying to do something that’s difficult for us, or just need someone to confirm that they love us, or think we’re smart, or look good today, or were seen doing a kind thing. Some of us are lucky and we get that kind of validation often. And others, many of whom are trying hardest of all, almost never do. When that happens to children whose parents weren’t their cheerleaders, I think it leaves scars for life. In their secret hearts, nothing they do is ever good enough. But I think no one ever outgrows that need for spoken validation, no matter how self-confident and unbreakable they may seem to others. Sometimes I’ve found myself jealously guarding my praise. Why should I give support to someone who doesn’t do the same for me, or who seems to get “too much” from someone other than me, or who “should know” that I love them or am grateful for them?
Tonight I’m hoping to remember to be on high alert for any opportunity I may have to be someone else’s cheerleader. For one thing, when I see him on Tuesday, I think I’ll thank Jim for being such a good one.