For many years, my daughter had a girl in her class who took dress-up day to a WNL (Whole Nother Level). Every dress-up day – whether it was favorite literary character day, cowboy day or any of the endless themed days that give me hives – this little girl was a show-stopper. Her mom was a make-up artist in the entertainment industry and I’m not exaggerating when I say her costumes were Broadway worthy. There had to have been weeks of prep, sketches, power tools and maybe even additional stylists behind her dress-up day coup. Some of her costumes could not be worn the whole day because of their weight or our school’s narrow hallways that couldn’t accommodate that much greatness.
Cut to the Hildebrand house on dress up day and it’s a “this’ll work” kind of affair. A bandana makes a cowboy, a floral shirt looks just like one Laura Ingalls’ Wilder would have worn (wink, wink), and that lei from the dollar store reminds me of the spray off the Maui waves. Done and done.
My kids know they will never be Best in Show on dress-up day as long as I’m in charge (and they don’t seem to mind). But what to do about that girl from my daughter’s class and others who knock it out of the park on dress-up day? We cheer them on. We high five them. We enjoy the heck out of their awesomeness. I want my kids to get used to complimenting others and taking the focus off themselves. I want my kids to recognize excellence in others AND CALL IT OUT.
When faced with someone else’s greatness – even as we face our own, er, not-so-greatness in a particular field – we have a choice. We can diminish their God-given drive and talent or we can be in the cheering section. The big secret to all of this is that you lose absolutely nothing by being in the cheering section. In fact, don’t be surprised if you amass your own cheerleaders when people notice greatness in you. Encouragement is contagious.
I love seeing excellence on display – and not just my own or my kids’, which is where we’re tempted to focus. There are so many people doing great things that I’m not wired to do. And I hope they keep doing it and have every success. So often we are so self-focused that we miss the opportunity to call out greatness in other people who might desperately need (or just enjoy) the encouragement. Maybe it’s not dress up day, but some other display of excellence in your midst. Take the time and speak life into the greatness around you.
Be bold, be generous, be extravagant with your words of encouragement. When you witness excellence in others call it out, praise it, bring attention to any good thing you see from those around you. And teach your kids to do the same. Others need your encouragement and the world needs more good – good work and good words.
To borrow from Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy” SPEAK about such things.