When I was seven I loved to draw stick-figures involved in huge battles. Each sheet of paper would have houses or hills or some other background filled with hundreds of stick figures with stick swords and stick guns and all fighting each other in some pointless battle royale. Every now and then I’d ask my dad to draw something for me. I’d do this for two reasons, one was because my father worked a lot and I liked his attention, the second was that I liked to watch actual art being made and imagining it would be me doing it one day.
One summer Saturday afternoon I asked him to draw something for me. He was in the garden surrounded by wood, sawhorses and tools, my timing was not always the best, and he said no. He told me to try myself. He reminded me how often I’d watched him and said he wanted to see what I could do.
Being seven I was a bit put out and couldn’t imagine what could be more important than drawing for me but I found pencil and paper and wondered what to draw. On the back of one of my comics was an advert for Lone Ranger action figures and I settled on the figure of Butch Cavendish as my model. I painstakingly drew this figure of a black hatted cowboy drawing down on someone, two pistols in hand. It felt like it took me forever, time is different when you’re seven so it may have been only half an hour, but at the end was a great sense of achievement, made even greater by my father’s obvious pride in my achievement. That day my dad gave me two of the greatest gifts I ever received. He gave me a lifelong love of drawing that has been a support to me in difficult times and has opened so many doors and lead me meet so many great people. More important was this lesson, he taught me to be an encourager.
Barnabas was, to my mind, the greatest figure in the new testament after Jesus. Barnabas means “son of encouragement”. He stood up and supported Paul when he came to the disciples when no one else would listen to him. They knew Paul as the man who had persecuted them and murdered some of their friends but Barnabas saw more. It is very easy to see the failings in people and things, to tear them down. Building them up is much harder, picking out the positives and just saying to people “that thing you did, it was great” can be difficult but also much more rewarding.
A word of encouragement can be as simple as a thank you to a harassed shop assistant, smile to someone receiving scowls, a cheer at a child’s sports-day or a thousand other things. Look out for the chance to encourage someone, you could turn their world around.