He came marching toward him from the garage area and all the boy could think of was, “What have I done wrong?”
As he approached him he stuck out his hand, “Kid, you’re going to be ok, you are going to be one of the best.” The year was 1985, the kid was fourteen years old, and his name was Jeff Gordon. The one shaking his hand and offering congratulations was one of Gordon’s heroes, the king of sprint cars, the old veteran, Steve Kinser.
Kinser had just done one of the best things someone can do for another, he had affirmed the young man. Webster describes the word affirmation as declaring something to be true, a statement of truth, a positive belief, encouragement.
In 1960 when I was a senior in high school I can still remember the words of my baseball coach.
“Adamson, if we can get you to hit the curve ball better, I think we might be able to get you some scholarship help to a small college.” Wow! That encouragement coming from my coach meant so much to me. He had played professional baseball, he knew baseball and for him to say that meant much. Well, I never learned to hit the curve ball much better, but I’ll tell you what I did do, I tried harder in baseball that year than any previous year. I tried to be worthy of my coaches statement.
Many years later I had the good fortune to be offered a position with an elite sports organization, United States Golf Association; a world recognized organization that was beyond my imagination. I remember how inadequate I first felt when coming on staff. The people I met had credentials and sports backgrounds so much more than I had acquired. I asked myself the question, “What am I doing here?” Not long after arriving on staff two or three veteran staff people said to me in various ways: “You’re going to be fine. You can do this job. You have the necessary skills to do well at this position.” I spent twenty-three years on staff so I guess I did, at least better than I did trying to hit that curve ball. However, those words of encouragement did wonders for me.
I believe Jeff Gordon’s life was changed by the encouragement he received on that day. I know what those words of support and encouragement did for me.
When you see people with possibilities in various areas of life, encourage them and tell them, especially the young,
“You can do this, you will be good at this.”
March 7, 2013