As I was walking my yellow lab the other evening, she was dragging her feet a bit (should that be paws?!) When I say yellow lab, I mean she is a large dog and she was getting pretty worn out on our walk. Normally, my first instinct is to snap at her and whine, “Come on, Maggie! What do you expect? For me to carry you?!” Instead, I was in a particularly good mood that night, and I tried on my cheerleading voice (which I have absolutely no experience in) and cooed “Come on Mags! You can do it! We’re almost there! I am sooo proud of you!” Obviously, she had no idea what I was actually saying, but my encouraging tone of voice sure seemed to do the trick as she sped ahead, more energized than before.
While encouraging my out-of-shape pup seems pretty irrelevant, it got me thinking about how we all need a cheerleader in our life. During high school, I ran for the varsity cross country team. My grandparents had always been great supporters of all of the activities both my brother and I were involved in. Whenever I ran on my home course, I could always count on my grandma to be stationed just beyond the steepest part of the course where she would be chanting “go, Amanda go!” while clapping her hands like a cheerleader. Even though nothing within me had physically become re-energized, my mental stamina always was boosted even just anticipating my grandma waiting just up the hill to cheer for me.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in our own, narrow little world that we forget about all of the people around us who can need our kind words and inspiration. Nicky Gumbel once said, “Be generous with encouragement. It is verbal sunshine. It costs nothing, it warms hearts and enriches lives.” I love that description. We often focus so much on our own trials, because we think it sounds so draining to consider anyone else’s concerns. In fact, it hardly takes anything, and the process of helping others often boosts our happiness as well.
One of my most favorite things to do is to prepare a random little gift for someone not expecting. It usually is nothing extravagant, maybe nail polish and a card; but it receiving something that let’s them know that you are thinking about them often means the world.
You don’t need any experience in performing cheers in unison. You don’t need to be able to do a back flip or perform stunts. The only criteria for being someone’s cheerleader is encouraging someone wholeheartedly.