When I was in high school, we had a guidance counselor who was not very positive. Looking back on it, I’m really not sure why she even went into the field of education since she did not seem to like students very much. Nevertheless, that was her chosen profession. As the school guidance counselor, it was her job to guide us.
Most of us did not have very much vision for our life and future. In fact, most of the people that we knew basically just got a minimum wage job after graduating from high school. College was not something that was on the radar for the majority of my classmates.
I knew that I wanted to go on to school, largely because my parents encouraged it. They placed a high value on education. My father would tell me that a college education would not make me better than anyone else, but it would perhaps open more doors of opportunity for me. It is interesting to me that in the past few years we hear that message nearly everywhere we turn. On radio and television we are given statistics about how much more money a person will make in his or her lifetime if they have a college education. I began hearing that message from my father over fifty years ago!
Anyway, back to my story. I never will forget the day that my friend, Bill Perkins, came back to class. He had just had an interview with our school guidance counselor. I could tell that something was wrong. I asked him what had happened. He told me that his visit with the counselor was for the purpose of discussing what he should do after graduation. I asked, “Well, what did she say?” He dropped his head and said, “She told me that I was not college material and that I should just plan to stay here in town and get a job at the mill.” I could see that he was devastated. His heart was broken; his life was shattered. His world had come to an end.
Later that day, I saw Bill in the parking lot at school and his entire demeanor had changed. He seemed to be very excited and happy. It was such a different attitude than what I had seen earlier in the day that I asked him what had happened. He told me that he had gone and talked to one of the varsity football coaches, Jim Moore. Coach Moore had played college football at Tennessee Tech and he assured Bill that he would be able to get him a football scholarship to that school. Although Bill was not huge in stature, he was an excellent football player and had experienced an outstanding senior year on the football field. Coach Moore told Bill that he thought he WAS college material and that Bill surely would do well there. The change in Bill’s attitude was not so much the fact that he was going to college as it was that he had found someone who believed in him. He found someone who had spoken healing words to him.
As I look back on that situation, I now have enough wisdom to realize that what I had seen in Bill earlier that day was a broken heart. A gaping emotional wound had been opened by the guidance counselor. But, later in the day, I saw a heart that had healed because of the words spoken by the football coach. Each teacher had spoken words to Bill, yet the results and outcome of those words were very different.
Bill did go on to attend college at Tennessee Tech, where he played football for four years and got involved in ROTC. When he graduated, he became a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He learned to fly helicopters and other aircraft. He went on to spend the next twenty years in the Marine Reserves until he became a full Colonel and was able to retire. Also, during that time, he worked full-time for Lockheed selling aircraft. His territory was the Middle East.
Bill called me a while back to check up on me. He now lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he has recently retired from working for Lockheed. I asked him what his largest order had been while working there and he told me that he had one order for four billion dollars!
Considering the fact that Bill not only went to college, but graduated; that he went on to become an officer in the United States Marine Corps; that he invested forty years with Lockheed as one of their top salesmen; and he had traveled all over the Middle East, I would say that it was incorrect to tell him, “You are not college material!” I would also say that was one of the most inaccurate statements in the last century. Wouldn’t you?
I once heard that it takes nine positive interactions with someone to overcome one negative interaction. Although that may be true, I have also seen that it only took one really good, positive interaction to overcome one bad, negative interaction. I saw that happen first hand years ago. I am so proud of Bill’s accomplishments and still proud to be his friend!
I want to encourage each one of us to be careful that the words we speak to others are emotionally healing words. Our words should produce hope and healing. Life is filled with many difficult circumstances and situations. Yet, if we face those circumstances with a “can-do attitude,” anything is possible. This is not “pie-in-the-sky” thinking. It is reality. I have experienced it. You have experienced it. And, Bill experienced it too. It is our job to help others who have not yet experienced it to have their life healed and encouraged by you and me this week by the encouraging words we speak to each one of them. Let’s go get ‘em!
Tip: Encouraging words promote healing, but cutting words produce broken hearts!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm
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