Don’t be afraid or discouraged because I am with you. (Isaiah 41:13)
As a former teacher, I can’t begin to tell you how much I hated the phrase, “I can’t do it.” And it seemed the older we got, the easier it became to say it.
When we were born, we immediately began to learn new things. Whether it was learning to eat on our own, learning to talk, learning to walk, or learning to dress ourselves, everything was brand new to us. And no matter how silly we looked or how funny we sounded while making those first attempts, we kept on trying until we got it right. When we learned to talk, we began another learning experience; asking questions. We asked anything and everything. We never asked ourselves if what we were asking was silly. We just kept asking-endlessly.
We were also never afraid to try new things either. I remember eating bugs to see if they tasted good. Jumping out of our second-story window into a pile of snow seemed like a good idea at the time. Bringing home a pocket full of worms was my gift to my mom. But somehow as we got older we were less willing to try new things.
The girls’ cross-country team at my alma mater began its first season shortly after I became the assistant running coach. The team consisted of a couple of upper-class girls and several junior-high girls. Never having coached girls distance runners before, we weren’t sure of exactly how to coach them. So we simply trained them with the boys’ team and expected them to keep up. Since they didn’t know any better, they did a great job of keeping up. They ended up trashing most of their female counterparts because they believed that was what they were supposed to do. They had no fears or doubts about themselves.
The very successful coach of the UConn womens’ basketball team, Geno Auriemma, deals with each year’s new recruits with this admonition, “Don’t tell me you can’t do something. I’ll tell you when you can’t so something. The team has won 11 national champions since 1995 and are currently trying to win their twelfth. Along the way, they have compiled winning streaks of 75, 90 and currently at 108 and counting.
I guess the bottom line is don’t be afraid to ask questions or to try something new. We should always try to keep learning new things and to experiment with new activities. Who knows what kind of new success and fulfillment you may find. You’ll never find out unless you try.
Thirty-five years ago, I used to run 80-100 miles a week to be able to run a marathon. I ran one two years in a row. And I finished both. Now I run an average of once a month. Guess what? I can no longer run a marathon. In fact, I have a hard time running to the mailbox. Okay, I’m 67 years old, have arthritis, have had 3 heart attacks and am 25 pounds overweight. But did I stop running because of my physical conditions? Or am I in my present physical condition because I stopped running.
The singing group that I used to be a part of eventually disbanded because one of our main singers felt his voice was no longer good enough to perform. The problem? He only sang at our once-a-month practices and at our concerts. Other members were part of our church worship team and sang at least twice a week. Some of simply love singing all the time. My wife and I recently traveled with four other friends to and from Florida by car. We sang along with the songs on the radio for hours at a time. When we returned home, I found that my voice was clearer and had a greater range than it had for a long time.
Our brain works the same way. My memory is no longer as good as it once was. Because of that, I often turn to wife to help me remember something rather than continuing to concentrate on my own to remember whatever it was. I forget names and I forget words while having a conversation. I know some of that happen may happen simply because we get older. More brain cells die off. But I wonder if using our minds more and in more complicated ways, we could help to improve our ability to think and delay the onset of memory problems. Do we lose our mental sharpness because our mind is slowing down or does our mind slow down because we don’t use it think in ways that require mental sharpness.
God gave each of us certain talents and abilities that are different for each of us. There are those that help us to achieve positions of authority. Others may give us the ability to put us in the public eye and make us famous. Others may be things that help us to work behind the scenes in total obscurity. And many fall in between. But if we don’t continue to do what we were made to do, our ability to do it begins to diminish. It’s like exercising your muscles. The more you work out, the stronger you get. If you never use those muscles, they atrophy and your strength diminishes.
So, don’t give up on those things you were made to do and keep yourself going as long as you are physically and mentally able. You’ll find your life will be full and you’ll never be bored.