A young mother decided to bring her nine-year-old son to a concert performed by the well-known pianist, Ignace Jan Paderewski. Her intention was solely to inspire her son to passionately embrace playing the piano and, thus, stop complaining about his piano lessons. They sat in a sea of tuxedos and fancy dresses lit by elegant chandeliers. However, the young boy's only focus was the beautiful ebony piano on the platform. While his mother was distracted, he slipped up on stage and began playing "Chopsticks" on the grand piano. The audience collectively turned their heads toward the stage at this elementary interruption and whispered, "What is that boy doing?" "Where are his parents?" "Someone should get him offstage."
Backstage, Paderewski heard the music and was drawn to look. He grabbed his coat and with no introduction knelt behind the boy, reached around both his sides, and improvised a counter-melody to enhance the boy's playing of "Chopsticks". As he played, Paderewski kept whispering in the boy's ear: "Go ahead. You're doing great. Keep it up! Don't stop. You're OK. Don't listen to the audience. Keep going. Keep playing."
So often, our greatest attempts at living life are simple and elementary, a version of "Chopsticks" even when we feel the pressure to perform a top-notch composition. In order to keep playing, to keep trying, we need encouragement. We need to hear the melody that gives us strength and the hope to continue.
This month, spend part of your meeting generating encouragement for a person or family that is experiencing a difficult time in their lives. Consider kneeling beside someone who is struggling with an illness or injury, is in an addiction treatment facility, is unemployed, or has experienced a death in his or her family. Offer him or her the melody of encouragement. This can look like:
- The melody of laughter: humorous books, movie tickets, homemade cards, cartoons, a jar of bubbles, toys, etc.
- The melody of hope: inspirational books, CDs and/or movies, a potted plant, inspiring photos or artwork, etc.
- The melody of comfort: food, money for bills, furniture, gift certificates, a homemade meal, free babysitting, etc.
- The melody of peace: music, candles, bubble bath, a gift certificate for a massage, etc.
With each melody, add the whisper of encouragement by including an inspirational message, quote or Scripture for each day of the month (a daily flip calendar or individual cards you have created).
The strong, consistent beat of the melody is found in the frequent presence of those who care. Make plans for someone to spend time with the person or family on a regular basis. Take time to pray for them and, when appropriate, invite them to your small group.
Small group leaders, encourage your group members to:
- Pack an extra treat in your lunch to share with someone at work or school.
- Say "I care" to someone in the coming week.
- Enter a friend's name in a drawing.