The service was over. I remember I played drums in the worship band that day. I don’t remember the sermon.
Everyone’s filing out the doors at the back of the sanctuary. Everyone’s cheerful. “I think we’re having lunch downstairs,” I hear someone say.
“Hey, Marshall, can I talk to you for a moment.” I turn to see an older friend of mine waiting beside the doorway. By older I just mean I was probably 16 and he was probably in his early 50′s.
“Sure,” I say, but I’m actually a little nervous. I grew up in the church, so I know these sit-down conversations can mean anything. I wasn’t sure I trusted this man.
He seemed nice enough but moody at times. He’d come to the church with his wife for about a year but then stopped. About a year and half later, he returned, but his wife had divorced him. Even before the divorce, though, he’d had issues. With depression. With society. Still, the divorce wasn’t doing him any favors.
He was a heavyset, balding man and embodied all the stereotypes that go along with that look.
“Marshall, I’ve been watching you,” he said. We both sat down in some chairs by the door as the last person left the sanctuary. He didn’t continue.
“Really?” I tried to sound interested. I didn’t know what else to do.
“Yes, I’ve watched you with your family,” he said. “I like that you respect your parents and care for your brothers. And the other kids here look up to you, you know.”
I’m not sure I did know, but I shock my head anyway. “Well, thank you.”
“I want you to know that I think your example makes a big difference for people. And, well, I admire that.”
We sat there together for a few moments and then probably grabbed lunch with everyone else afterward. But that’s about all I recall from the conversation.
Here’s what I’m getting at with this. I didn’t really respect this man. I called him my friend, but I didn’t want to be like him. He was kind of boring and frankly kind of slimy.
But here I am, years later, telling this story… simply because he took me aside and gave me a few words of encouragement. I didn’t care about his opinion, but his encouragement mattered to me.
(1) Who do you know who sets a good example for others? Maybe it’s someone who gets a lot of attention already, or maybe it’s someone who generally goes unnoticed. Single that person out in your mind and single out why you admire that person’s example.
(2) Plan ahead. Will you see this person at work, at church, at a party this weekend? Plan to take that person aside and share, in just a few sentences, something you really admire about him or her. You can make a big difference with eye contact and a couple sentences.