I was reminded by a friend that September 12 has been designated as a National Day of Encouragement.
It took a group of high school students to come up with this idea more than a decade ago. They identified a lack of encouragement as the biggest problem facing them. First, the governor of Arkansas and later the United States Senate recognized the wisdom of these young people by proclaiming an annual observation to uplift one another by reaching out a hand of compassion and friendship.
As simply stated by the teenagers who got this movement started, "Encouragement Matters." The date chosen was no coincidence. Following our remembrance of 9/11 each year with a day of encouragement is quite fitting. We certainly needed something like that. Right now, it seems like every day should be dedicated to such an important endeavor.
We can do so much better. If only we could begin to see one another as God sees us. The prevalent urge to judge and condemn leaves in its wake a deep and lasting loneliness. It is evidenced in rising suicide rates among kids and cops. It fuels the addiction epidemic. I have been working with a young man who is suffering a dark night of the soul. He told me that he has made grave mistakes and failed over and over to do better. Now he is certain that nobody could ever believe in him again. People have even told him this is true.
So, he isolates at home in his room touched by no one. The only light that shines comes from a computer screen. My job is to help him discover the fact that despite everything, he is loved. It will take other hands reaching out and encouraging him forward for his life to regain meaning.
There is a wonderful tune from the musical, Dear Evan Hansen called “You Will Be Found”. The theatrical production has swept Broadway and is now touring the country. It deals with feelings of abandonment, forgottenness, and hope through the loving intercession of friends. The lyrics of the song are inspiring. They offer encouragement so longed for by those who seem lost.
Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you're broken on the ground
You will be found.
Fr. Gregory Boyle, who works with and loves gang members says that; "Nothing can move the dial on God's love for us. After all, that is already fixed at its highest setting." God's gaze is filled with infinite tenderness and mercy. When we grasp just a smidgeon of this reality it becomes possible to envision and encourage the goodness in every person we encounter. We can lift each other out of our despair. I guarantee this as the outcome…The world will be a better place.