Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Gift of Encouragement

I recently started learning to play the guitar.  I already knew how to decipher written music, so now it's just a matter of converting that knowledge into coordinated guitar sounds.  The mechanics are not complicated -- simply strum rhythmically with the right hand while distorting the left hand into impossible, ever-changing shapes.

I'm not very good at it.

This week was my third lesson.  "Like this," said Mike, and I watched his fingers shifted nimbly from one formation to the next as chords rang clearly from his instrument.  "Now you try," he instructed, and I looked at my own hand with dismay that I could no longer will my ring finger to move from one place to another.

Mike, though, was undeterred.  When I butchered chords, he refrained from commenting and paused quietly as I worked to fix them.  He was not entirely silent, though; he noticed and commented when one of my fingers began to behave occasionally as intended.  And, by the end of the thirty minutes, he had listed several exercises which are challenging enough to help develop new skills while still being somewhere within the realm of what might become possible.

Mike is helping me learn new skills and to troubleshoot when I have difficulty.  I appreciate his teaching.  Perhaps even more, I appreciate his encouragement.  I rarely need to hear from him what I am doing wrong; the guitar itself gives clear voice to my errors.  But, especially in these early stages of learning, I value his patience.  When I feel discouraged, I can borrow his hope.

I am grateful for folks like this -- people who recognize difficulties while neither ignoring nor pointing them out unnecessarily, who see both an individual journey and common markers along the way, and in all of this, who lend courage for next steps.

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