If you can dream it, you can do it.
That statement has been attributed to many men, including Walt Disney and Enzo Ferrari. No one really knows where it originated. Perhaps a prehistoric man said it to his son, as the boy looked at the night sky and began to draw figures on a cave wall. I do know that a few words of encouragement can be life-changing. They can inspire and transform a mundane existence into one of meaning.
When I was a little girl, my father was clearing space for a garden in an overgrown part of our land. I remember asking him if I could help. He stopped what he was doing and found a little axe that wasn’t too heavy for me to swing (and probably as dull as a butter knife). He picked out a young scrub sapling about as thick as a baseball bat, and he asked me if I could chop it down for him. Yes! I took the axe and I immediately set to work.
I chopped and chopped and chopped, and the smooth bark of the sapling broke and I could see the green inner bark and creamy white interior fibre. My hands started to hurt and the sweat built up on my forehead and dripped onto the axe. In my mind, the little sapling began to grow in my mind and it was now a gigantic redwood. I was just a little girl and I could never swing that axe and topple that monstrous tree. My eyes filled with tears and I began to cry.
“I can’t do it!”
Dad stopped his work and sat down next to me. “You’re my little earth muffin,” he said. “You can do anything that is worth doing.”
“It’s too hard.”
He put his arm around me and shook me a little. “It is hard. But I know you won’t give up. I know you can do it.” He stood up and brushed off his overalls, and he went back to work.
I sat there for a while until my tears dried.
My dad continued to chop away at other trees, and I noticed how he sweated, too. Without looking, I knew his hands were cracked and blistered, because they always were – he slathered Corn Huskers lotion on them every night. Once, he turned around to look at me, and he smiled and winked. I smiled back, and I went back to whacking away at that little tree.
I continued the attack on that tree the next day, and the next. But my dad was there to see it topple over, frayed and resigned. I stood there, smiling, dirty, tired – and proud of myself. Dad squeezed my hand, and said he knew I could do it all along.
We planted a garden in that space, and until we moved away from that old farmhouse I could tell you the exact spot where that little sapling once stood. Dad planted a pumpkin seed there the first year, and told everyone who stopped in how I felled a tree and help clear the land for “our garden.”
I don’t think I have given up on anything worth doing since that day.
September 12th is National Day of Encouragement. Here are a few ways you can celebrate:
- Tell somebody how much you appreciate their work – especially those who don’t get much encouragement. How about the garbage man who puts the cans back on the curb? Or the crossing guard who helps get the kids safely to school?
- Send out a few Twitter messages of encouragement to the general public. BrainyQuote has some awesome quotes that you can Tweet directly from the site.
- If you know someone is going through a difficult time, or is facing a huge project at work, stop in to offer a few hugs or high-fives.
- Can you give a hand up to someone who is pursuing a goal? Be a mentor or offer information they might be able to use to move ahead in their path.
- Be patient with someone. You may become frustrated with a child or colleague’s slow pace, and want to hurry it along or do it yourself. My dad certainly could have chopped down that sapling with one stroke, but he let me complete the task on my own – and because he did, I learned so much more.
- Give yourself some encouragement. You are perfect in your imperfection – life is for learning and growing and experiencing the magic of the universe. Take a risk!