Our daughter Samantha taught us early on the importance of cheering from the sidelines. When Sam was growing up, my husband Chris and I used to joke that she had only 2 speeds. Warp and passed out. When Samantha was awake it proved a herculean effort to get her to sit still. We brilliantly harnessed her energy into sports. While captain of her high-school travel soccer team her coach drilled into her, Leave it on the field, Sam, as she tended to expend as much energy into cheering on her teammates from the sidelines as she did while playing in the game. She started playing soccer at the age of 4. While other girls wandered the playing-field contentedly picking dandelions and performing cartwheels, Sam was manning every position these girls unwittingly abandoned. At their first game the coaches explained that there would be no score keeping. I thought Sam was going to notify Title IX right then and there. Every time she ran past us, she would shout, What’s the score??? As Chris and I would silently and sheepishly hold up the correct number of fingers.
Awhile back, my husband and I, along with his siblings and their spouses made the difficult, albeit necessary decision to move my in-laws out of their home of over 40 years and 8 kids. I knew one of the things I would miss most about this central family gathering place was the huge swimming pool in their sprawling backyard. Once a year on Memorial Day weekend, my in-laws would host an all-day and well-into the night picnic. This holiday was among my favorites of the entire year. I am blessed to have married into a large family, that, as humanity and nature would have it, only keeps growing. Barring funerals, the only guaranteed time to see the countless aunts, uncles and cousins was at this annual family gathering. During one such picnic when Samantha was still of early elementary age, she asked Chris to race her in the pool. A common request he never once declined. As everyone was going about their business, the race started. Amidst the laughter of children, crying of babies and adult catch-up conversations rang this precious voice, Root for me! I quickly realized, every time Sam’s head bobbed out of the water for air, she would yell, to no one in particular, Root for me! As everyone else came to this same realization, we gathered at the pool’s edge. By the end of the race the entire family was clapping and cheering and rooting for Sam. Chris, for whom no one was cheering, lost by a nose. At the beginning of Samantha’s freshman year of high school, she decided to try out for cheerleading. In our ignorance, Chris and I gently teased her that Cheerleading isn’t a sport for true athletes. To which she immediately put us in our place by saying, That’s right. Athletes lift weights. Cheerleaders lift Athletes. Touché Sam, touché. We never again had the audacity to joke that cheerleading wasn’t a sport.
One of the best written and most powerful speeches I’ve ever heard was delivered by the late Carnegie-Mellon Professor, Randy Pausch. While dying of pancreatic cancer he was invited to give a Carnegie-Mellon sanctioned speech called, The Last Lecture. But his true title was, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. In it, he talks about how we all have a choice in life to make. And that choice is whether to be a Tigger or an Eeyore. He very wisely chose the former. The words of a dying man tend to stick with you and I often think, in any given situation, am I a Tigger or an Eeyore? It is my hope that those around me can attest that I, like Randy, have striven for Tigger status. Because it is the words and actions of the Tiggers’ of this world that have upheld, encouraged, and buoyed me. For all those times someone has been that for me, I hope I was that for them. So, while Chris and I may have raised an actual cheerleader, I believe it is the enthusiastic cheering on of life from the sidelines that sustain, and propel me. Be a Tigger. Cheer the loudest. Root for me. Because when people are cheering you on, everything is achievable. No matter the score.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 | NIV