Just before graduating high school, I secured a summer job at a local hotel to work in maintenance, which meant, I cut grass. But two days before school ended, the hotel decided to hire someone else. I went home upset, almost in tears and swore: “I’m going job-hunting and not coming back until I get one.”
Brave words but I soon regretted saying them, because after several hours of fruitless searching, there were no jobs to be found. The restaurants and stores hired their summer help and were not looking to add any more. Discouraged and ready to quit, I tried one last restaurant. Maybe they could use a busboy or a dishwasher.
The owner, Fred Brown, agreed to talk and even offered a cup of coffee as we sat in a booth near the back of the restaurant. He seemed genuinely interested in my predicament and unlike other interviewers, he was in no hurry to end the conversation. At one point Mr. Brown said, “I like your attitude, so I will give you a chance, but not as a busboy. I want you to be a cook.”
A Cook! A Cook!!??
I knew enough at that point not to argue with the poor sick man, but my stomach was churning like a hamburger grinder on high. What I knew about cooking was …. was … nothing! When I went home and told the family, my sister started laughing, dad mumbled something about never going to that restaurant again and mom looked at me with an expression that can only be described as pure horror. At first, they were right. I was no cook.
My first day on the job was a disaster. The manager responsible for training me at one point became so frustrated during a particularly busy time that he made me stand in front of the automatic toaster and feed the bread. Toast seemed to be the only thing I was capable of cooking. Every day for the first few weeks, I either wanted to quit or be fired. It didn’t seem to make much difference. What stopped me was the steady stream of encouraging comments from Mr. Brown. “You’re doing better. I can see the results. Keep up the good work!”
By the end of the summer, I was a reasonably competent cook.
For the next few years, during breaks from college, I would return to the same restaurant. Each time, Mr. Brown encouraged me to try something new. One summer, I ordered supplies. Another time, I managed employees and helped with bookkeeping. During my last summer, Mr. Brown handed me the keys and said, “My restaurant is yours for three weeks.” Then he left for a much-needed vacation.
Fred’s favorite motto which continues to motivate me:
“You will never know what you can accomplish until you try!”
Why am I telling you this story? Two reasons:
- Remember who encouraged you and thank them. Who was a Fred Brown in your life and helped you accomplish more than you ever thought possible? Have you ever taken the time to write or tell them how much their encouragement meant to you?
- Look for someone else to encourage. Who needs you to be a Fred Brown in their life? Maybe it’s a teenager looking for an opportunity. It could be your next door neighbor, a member of your church, or a coworker. Your act of kindness could turn a life around.
The Bible gives specific instructions: “Therefore encourage each other and build each other up …” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). This may be the single most important task we can undertake as God’s church. In a world seeking to put others down, the church should be a place where you can receive and give encouragement in order to build each other up.
“Thank you, Fred Brown, for being an encourager when I needed it most! You are an important milestone in my life. God, please enable me to become a similar source of encouragement. Help me become a Fred Brown for someone else. Amen.” Now, who’s hungry? I’m cooking!
About Larry Davies
Larry Davies is currently the Lynchburg, Virginia District Superintendent for 89 United Methodist Churches. He has been the pastor of small, medium, and large churches. For many years, Larry managed and trained sales people in the automobile business. He is also the author of Live the Light: Five Weeks to a Light that Shines and three other books. Larry is the founder of Sowing Seeds of Faith, a worldwide prayer ministry and writing ministry, www.SowingSeedsofFaith.com. His columns and blog posts appear in several newspapers, magazines, and websites. Larry is a graduate of Virginia Tech and received his Master of Divinity at Duke University. Mell, Larry’s wife, recently retired from Concord Elementary School. Larry’s oldest son Stephen is married to Brandy, and they have a one-year-old bundle of energy, Jackson. Larry’s daughter Lisa is engaged to be married to Bobby. He and Mell also have a lively but older Springer Spaniel named Daisy.