It was near the end of my senior year in high school. I secured a summer job at a local hotel to work in maintenance, which really means… I cut the grass. But two days before school ended, I was told by the hotel they decided to hire someone else. I went home upset, almost in tears and swore to my Mother: "I'm going job-hunting and I'm not coming back until I've got 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 had already hired their summer help and were not looking to add any more. Discouraged and ready to quit, I decided to try one last restaurant. Maybe they could use a busboy or a dishwasher.
The owner, Fred Brown, agreed to talk to me 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, son, so I'm willing to give you a chance, but I'm not going to train you as a busboy or dishwasher. I want you to be one of my cooks!"
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… absolutely 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 great feats 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!