Spitfires and Hurricanes were the legendary fighters of the British RAF during WWII. They were agile and very effective. The Hurricane fighter, however had a disastrous design flaw: the fuel lines ran right along both sides of the cockpit at face height as they led to the engine. In any direct hit, these would burst into flame and literally melt off all the features on the pilot’s face. The men who survived underwent 20 to sometimes 40 surgeries to reconstruct their faces, but even so, they remained terribly disfigured. Many would be rejected by wives and sweethearts. Many became recluses. Even though they were the same men on the inside, what others saw on the outside made all the difference. Heart wrenching.
However, one of these men, Peter Foster, went through all the agony, all the surgeries, all the anxieties, and yet married his sweetheart before he left the hospital. Later on he said of his wife, “She became my mirror. She gave me a new image of myself.” She loved him, and a few millimeters of skin did not deter her. She reflected a new face, a beloved face, back to Peter. He could now see himself differently in the mirror of his wife.
They say that we should treat every person we meet as if they were going through a great catastrophe or severe crisis, and that more than half the time we will be right. Sometimes the disaster will be evident on the surface, and sometimes it will be hidden deep inside. As I rub elbows with others in my sphere, I must remind myself that I am their mirror, reflecting back what I see or at least what I choose to see. I can choose to reflect back a cursory, skin-deep image, or I can look deeply, find and reflect the person’s deep human value back to them, and so honor them as a fellow member of humanity.
ENCOURAGE: to inspire with courage or confidence; to stimulate by assistance or approval; to promote, advance, or foster.
In 1896 William James wrote to his students at Radcliffe College:
“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” We all need to be noticed. Appreciated. Valued. Esteemed. Anyone who has experienced this knows the soul-nourishment it brings, how it heartens and cheers. Often it brings basic courage to continue.
Encouragement creates good. It is a creative impulse. Encouragement is a Creative Impulse for Good.
Oh, may I be one of those who make it their every-moment practice to see others appreciatively and reflect back to them a face that is valued. May it be to me a constant, determined, walking-around endeavor that brings freshness and vigor at every turn.
“How easy it is for one benevolent being to diffuse pleasure around him, and how truly is a kind heart a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity to freshen into smiles.” Washington Irving