Where the Buffalo Roam. The Power of Encouragement.

Guitars were screaming, drums were beating, and a robot fitting the description of a person roamed the audience. This was the scene last Saturday evening at The Cutting Room. An iconic music venue on East 32nd Street in Manhattan. Munching burgers and nachos and sharing a table with an unknown couple, my wife and I enjoyed a rock show by a not-so-old friend. Peter Baron, of Mountain rock band and Leslie West’s Wild West Show, invited us to attend. But, as always, there’s a back story.

It started over ten years ago when my wife and I vacationed on Nantucket Island. We loved it so much; we were determined to go back. Well, eleven years later we made it to the Gray Lady once again in 2016. While staying at The Easton House, a lovely B&B not far from the center of town, we had the pleasure of meeting Peter and his welcoming family and friends. Enjoying their company, we tried to connect after the trip but didn’t until this weekend. And that’s when I thought about encouragement.

Yes, I tend to make connections between seemingly unrelated things. This time, buffalo, rock 'n roll, and encouragement. If you’ve already guessed where the buffalo come in, give yourself five points!

Peter Baron shredded it at The Cutting Room, complete with a singing Happy Birthday to his Mom! What an encouraging night!

Watching the show at The Cutting Room was only part of the enjoyment, the other 70% was being there to support Peter, Maryann, Keith, Arlene, and Darryl. That was the real joy. The outstanding music was icing on the cake! Seeing them was a real encouraging time, especially since seven months had passed since our meeting on the island. And that’s where rock ’n roll and encouragement intersect.

If I may segue from the story for a moment, while remaining on topic, I want to share a life observation. I promise I’ll get to the buffalo.

If the mission - the purpose and goal - outweighs the mess, you’ll survive.

Over the years, in my leadership and reading endeavors, I’ve come to the conclusion that people will tolerate stressful environments, or troublesome issues all for the sake of the mission, even in a habitat lacking encouragement. But, when the mission is over or compromised, all bets are off. People will complain, throw the brakes on or even abandon ship; no longer tolerating sub-par or toxic conditions. If the mission - the purpose and goal - outweighs the mess, you’ll survive. One way to dilute the negative is to be encouraging. At home. With your kids. With your spouse. Encouragement can go a long way in helping others hurdle stressful circumstances. Even in a catastrophe, encouraged people are resilient people!

And, if you’re a leader you’re responsible for the atmosphere your volunteers or staff work in, no exceptions! It’s like a fish bowl, and you have charge of keeping it clean! Algae is going to build up, heck the fish will even poop in it, and it’s on your shoulders to maintain the tank; you’re the filter! You have the calling of keeping the tank clean! When staff or volunteers are breaking themselves for the sake of you or the organization, you have to make them a top priority. You have to encourage them.

There’s an excellent example of this in 2 Samuel, when King David’s son, Absalom, is killed in battle. Absalom, a conniving, deceptive man, tried to wrestle the kingdom from his father.

It was told (to) Joab, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people, for the people heard that day, “The king is grieving for his son.” And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle. The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters and the lives of your wives and your concubines, because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you. For you have made it clear today that commanders and servants are nothing to you, for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the LORD, if you do not go, not a man will stay with you this night, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.”
~ 2 Samuel 19:1-7 (ESV)

David would’ve lost his entire army had he not taken time, even in his grieving, to encourage his people who had exhausted themselves on his behalf. Now, encouraging comes naturally to some more than others. But this isn’t an excuse; it’s a reality. In fact, encouragement is such an important part of the Kingdom of God the LORD made it a gift!

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying,…if it is encouraging, let him encourage… ~ Romans 12:6-8

But just because you’re not gifted, doesn’t mean you can’t be encouraging. Saying, “I’m not capable or skilled at encouraging, that’s just who I am.” is an excuse, not a solution. Encouragement can make or break your plans. Don't make excuses, get good at encouraging!

But just because you’re not gifted, doesn’t mean you can’t be encouraging.

Now, encouraging doesn’t have to take epic proportions. Small words, a brief text or email, a card, a cup of (good) coffee or even chocolate can go a long way it boosting morale, cleaning the tank and helping to create a pleasant work environment. You know, making a lovely place for buffalo to roam! So, make a decision, today, to encourage your spouse, friends, coworkers or staff. Start making encouragement a top priority; you won’t regret it!

Oh, and the buffalo? I recall a song we used to sing in elementary school called, “Home on the Range.” Encourage is the opposite of discourage. "Encourage" means give support, confidence, or hope to someone. "Discourage" is to cause someone to lose confidence or enthusiasm. I leave you with the opening stanza of the western folk song. I think you’ll figure it out.

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day.