Why Bother To Notice The Pleasant Surprises?

Why Bother To Notice The Pleasant Surprises?

I’ve noticed more pleasant surprises in my life than usual. Is it because there are more of them or am I simply becoming more aware and appreciative of them?  A delightful surprise takes us off guard. It is unexpected and nothing which we orchestrate for ourselves. When one receives a surprise, we feel valued, understood and appreciated.

Big or Small

Surprises come in various sizes. A short, handwritten note, a small gift wrapped in tissue paper, a friend’s carefully planned birthday getaway or someone new in your life who wants to be a friend. Having been a recipient to all of these large and small unforeseen gestures of kindness has warmed my heart and put a smile on my face. 

One year, my sons were too young to acknowledge Mother’s Day and my husband neglected to give me any small token of appreciation. Though I did not expect breakfast in bed, I’d hoped for a little recognition, but none came. The day was mundane and uneventful. The following day, when my husband came home from work, he gave me a card with a written apology which included his admission to being a jerk. His words and the fact he’d recognized my sentiments was the best surprise of any Mother’s Day. 

The biggest birthday surprise I ever received was a train trip to Glacier National Park. As per tradition, my husband took me out for a date, but this time, another couple joined us. We drove out of town for dinner and lingered long over a delicious meal. We leisurely strolled along the lake shore and then dined on delectable desserts at another restaurant. The evening lengthened into late night and I became curious. On our way home, we detoured to the train station. I wondered if my husband had planned a surprise visit from one of my sisters. Instead, my friend led me to the train platform and said we were getting on the next train. Dumbfounded, she told me of her carefully planned excursion for just the two of us. We’d ride the train into Glacier Park, spend the day and return again by train. She’d even packed an overnight bag for me. It was an unexpected birthday gift instigated by someone who knows me and I felt greatly valued.

Not everyone knows of the difficult events in my life, the ones which make my heart ache, but when they think of me, their thoughts turn into significant acts of kindness. Recently, I came home to a small package wrapped in tissue paper and left in a gift sack on my back porch. Inside was a card and a book of inspirational writings. It was from a friend, one whom I don’t see often, but one who knows how to encourage my heart.  

Why bother to notice pleasant surprises? Pleasant surprises are worth noticing because they become memories which can make us smile even in the gloomiest of times.

Why Bother To Be A Cheerleader?

Why Bother To Be A Cheerleader?

Although I was never a cheerleader in high school, I’ve grown into one as an adult. But I’m not a cheerleader that stands on the sidelines of athletic events jumping up and down and waving pom-poms. I do not yell through a bull-horn or do flips off anyone’s shoulders. I don’t wear a short skirt or school colored ribbons in my hair. But I am still a cheerleader because that is what my friend calls me and it is a role I take quite seriously. 

  You Are My Cheerleader

I believe everyone needs buoying up, someone who will rally for them, and spur them along. I know that for my friend, who is encumbered with depression, staying alive, thinking hopeful thoughts and concentrating on daily life is a huge chore for her. Though I don’t understand the nuances of anyone’s depression, I do know that it is real, and heavy and a burdensome load to carry. Encouragement can lightning that encumbrance.

I’ve witnessed the various treatments and medications she has tried, but nothing snaps her out of feeling sad, tearful, empty or hopeless. Her relationship with depression is older than our friendship of almost forty years. At times, it debilitates my educated, intelligent and artistic friend and it is not something that will probably ever go away. The best she can do is live as well as she knows how to in spite of it. 

A few years back, I asked her if there was anything I could do to help her.

“Yes,” she said, “just treat me like I’m normal.”

And so I have. We take walks along familiar wooded trails, and go kayaking. We get together for dinner, text or talk on a regular basis. She knows me almost as well as my husband and I trust her insights about my life. We share our victories and our defeats, as well as our hopes and fears for the future. 

Without a whole lot of physical endurance and limited concentration, some days for her are more limiting than others. Not too long ago when talking with her on the phone, I asked, “So what are you doing?” 

“I’m sitting on the front porch, sipping tea and watching someone else do the yardwork.”

“Good for you,” I exclaimed. “You are doing exactly what you should be doing.” 

“Thanks cheerleader.” 

I had to smile. She is the only one who calls me her cheerleader and I like that. 

Why bother to be a cheerleader? It is worth remembering that everyone needs buoying up, the downtrodden as well as those who cheer the downtrodden. 

Why Bother To Encourage?

  Why Bother to Encourage?

I’ve noticed that receiving courage from another to keep going in a certain direction comes in a variety of ways. But no matter how it comes, when received the results are the same; an emboldened heart and strong confidence to continue moving on down the track.   

When our sons were young, we introduced them to the pleasures we found in hiking. For the longest time though, they mostly resisted turning their eyes toward the beauty we pointed out to them as we huffed our way along mountain trails. Then on one particular trek, my husband and I found the resolve to keep taking our kids out on these hikes when an elderly couple spoke just a few words to us. 

We were at Lake Louise and started walking the trail called the Plain of Six Glaciers telling our sons that at the top we’d have a treat at the tea house. As we were going up the trail, a white haired smiling couple were coming down the trail. They stopped for a moment gazing and nodding their heads at our sons. Then looking at us they said, “We used to take our kids on forced marches too. Don’t worry, it’ll pay off.” And then off they went. My husband and I took their words as a confirmation to, “Just keep on trucking.” 

In light of their words, now our sons not only enjoy their own regular excursions out into the wilds, but our grandkids are learning under the tutelage of their parents, how to appreciate beauty while they huff their way along mountain trails. 

In addition to hiking, I’ve competed in a few athletic challenges; triathlons, open water swims and long distance running races. These events are always accompanied by non competitors who stand on the sidelines shouting out words that inspire participants, like me, to keep going. 

Coupled with their claps and whistles, there is a wave of energy that comes from a cheering crowd. Countless times my feet have been boosted to run faster or pedal harder when this invisible, yet real current of inciting sway comes my way helping me complete the race.

Then there are the few words spoken from the mouths of people from days gone by when I used to teach at a women’s community Bible study. Bumping into them in the grocery store, at a restaurant, or clothing store, they remind me of the time when I said something pertinent and poignant and how it raised the level of hope in their heart. I am relieved they don’t remind me of the times I stammered through many of the Bible lectures I gave. 

But my favorite kind of encouragement comes from written notes. Sometimes they come in the mail and I am uplifted reading the few lines penned by a sibling who wanted to validate and confirm who I am and how I’ve inspired them. 

Other times a co-worker will leave a note on my desk giving credence to a struggle I’ve recently shared with them letting me know they too have grappled with the same thing. Equally important are the funny notes from new yoga students whose disbelief changed to belief after just a few classes. 

Either way, holding something tangible in my hand and reading the words not just once, but putting the card away to be pulled out and read again, awakens optimism in me. I can keep going on down the track.   

Why bother to encourage? It’s worth infusing the life of another with words that inspire them with hope. After all, what goes around, comes around.