“You can do it,’ is what I should say

There was an interesting discussion in church on Sunday when our teacher posed a question about how we can support children and youth in knowing their value and helping them reach their potential.

It followed on the heels of a separate conversation, outside of church, where someone said they never had anyone urge them towards a specific education or career path. There wasn’t that support that you almost come to expect from a guidance counselor or a teacher. No adult ever said to this person, “You would be a great [insert dream job].”

Preparing for his teaching career.

Preparing for his teaching career.

That caught me off guard. I teach college students who are just getting started at the University. They have their big dreams and ambitions. My own second grader is already planning his career (dead set on teaching elementary school). It’s easy to encourage these kids who are taking the steps on their own.

But I’m sure we all know young folks who are struggling or don’t have the support or expectations necessary to make something of themselves.

Sandwich that idea with a theme that is running through my career recently. There is much ado where I work about networking and mentoring. One workshop leader took it a step further and called it championing. Be a champion for your coworkers.

The concept is that when you were not in the room there would still be someone at the table with your best interests and goals in mind.

And it clicked together.

Kids need champions. Not just their parents (and in too many cases not even the parents are champions), but also peers and other adults. At school. At church. on the field. In the neighborhood. The guy at the comic book store.

I’ve never been comfortable receiving praise, but it’s frustrating how some are uncomfortable, unable or even unwilling to give praise to others. A few kind words and a few moments of genuine interest in a kid can make such a difference.

I feel like my wife and I do a good job of that with our own children. My wife is great about complimenting strangers, especially kids. But I don’t remember a time I took a moment to recognize somebody else’s kid for something great they did, or encourage them in whatever they were doing.

Now, I am nobody exciting and I do not hold delusions that I will inspire a teenager to follow his dreams, but I can support and offer some kind words. I can champion. I can do more of that.

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