Apparently, being six years old is a sweet spot for learning life lessons.
One night on the way home from her basketball practice, Ellie kept grumbling in frustration as she tried to master another level of some meaningless game app on my phone. It didn’t matter how many times her dad and I assured her “It’s just a game” or “You just have to practice”. And then it finally came, her frustration reached it’s boiling point and spewed into a micro-burst of alligator tears. I had a feeling that mastering this silly game on my phone held a deeper meaning.
“It’s a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” I made out between sobs.
“Are you talking about basketball?” I asked.
She nodded. This was her first attempt at playing basketball. In the months before the league began, we worked on dribbling and shooting, just the two of us. She got pretty good and she felt pretty confident.
But then, practices began. She was about a head shorter than most of the girls, and often got lost in the unorganized mass of her novice teammates and the confusing rules of the game. She hardly ever got the ball, and hadn’t made any baskets.
This new context of harsh reality shook the core of her newly gained confidence, and she struggled. And my heart broke to see her hurt.
“Maybe you haven’t made any baskets yet, but whenever you get the ball, you are the best passer! You are always looking to pass the ball to someone who is open and has an open shot. And you play such great defense. But the thing I love most about watching you play, whenever someone scores a basket, even if they are on the other team, you clap for them and are excited for them. Your team needs you to be that person!”
She beamed at this new found confidence. A confidence in the realization that she had something unique and essential for her team’s success. I suggested, “Ellie, why don’t you ask your coach if you can have a turn dribbling the ball down the court. You are a really good dribbler.”
“Okay, Mom. I will. I believe in myself.” Her response shocked me. I hadn’t realized the internal struggle with confidence that was going on in her 6 year old heart. Just an ounce of my encouragement gave her a world of new courage.
Yesterday, Matthew Barnett tweeted “Everyone in life can make it if they knew that one person still believes in them….be that one person.”
Today, I’m on the prowl…who can I be that “one person” to today? Who do I know that is lost in the storm of harsh reality, on the brink of losing sight of their purpose, their dream? Who can you be that “one person” to?
Oh, and by the way, in her basketball game after our conversation, Ellie scored the first two baskets of the game…in the first 30 seconds.
In the economy of encouragement, the smallest investment can produce a windfall dividend.