By M. Christopher Boyer
During the second week of June, many Christians celebrated the story of Barnabas.
If you are not familiar with this man, you can find his story in the New Testament book of Acts, which tells of his generosity, how he helped the Apostle Paul go from a feared enemy of the church to one of its greatest heroes and how he himself was one of the earliest missionaries of the church. His name was Joseph, but he did so much to help others that friends nicknamed him Barnabas, “the son of encouragement.” As I re-read his story, I thought of all the people who encourage me.
Thinking of people who encourage us seems to be easier at this time of year. At the end of the school year, we see many of our children, grandchildren or friends graduating. My own daughter has just graduated from high school, as did her “bestie,” Michelle. I’m encouraged and filled with hope for the future as I see these two young women and so many other promising young people leave behind the schools of their childhoods and prepare for young adulthood in higher education.
Our family and friends are also celebrating graduations from colleges and universities as our young adults take their newly minted degrees to more education or blossoming careers. One young friend is taking her masters in teaching back to the classroom, following in the footsteps of her mother and mentors as she seeks to instill the love of learning in yet another generation of students. The accomplishments and dedication of these young people is a great encouragement to me.
Speaking of teachers, I’m encouraged by yet another friend, a teacher closing in on retirement age who nevertheless is studying hard herself to achieve a national certification that she believes will make her even more effective with students in the years to come. Another teacher, the son of a friend, has been teaching all this past year with a debilitating illness, unwilling to step down when he can still make a difference in children’s lives. What wonderful role models these two are!
I’m encouraged by friends of mine with disabilities who never allow what they can’t do to stop them from what they can do. One is a talented artist whose bright and delicate works are in demand all over the area. Another is a retired carpenter who builds ramps for those in wheelchairs — while in a wheelchair himself! I’m encouraged by those whose spirits burn bright in spite of bodies that don’t work as well as they’d like.
I’m encouraged by all the folks I know who volunteer at church or for arts organizations or with social service agencies. Their willingness to serve others reminds me that caring for others is, as Jesus taught, the best way of expressing a love of God. As we begin our lovely Northwest summer, take a minute to reflect: Who are the people who encourage you?
The Rev. M. Christopher Boyer is pastor of Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Lynnwood.