Many years ago, I was a cheerleader.
This was in the era when cheerleaders wore pleated wool skirts, long-sleeved, button-down blouses, heavy letter sweaters, bobby socks and saddle shoes. Our “job” was to make sure the fans and team were appropriately encouraged, involved and excited throughout the game.
Some games this was easier than others. When the team was winning, it was not hard at all to get everyone to be a part of the action. Other times, when the team was not having one of its best showings, our job was much harder. It was not nearly as much fun.
I’m not sure why these memories have recently been returning to me. Maybe it’s because I now work part time for an organization that employs cheerleaders. The uniforms have greatly changed, but the mission remains the same: support the team and its players on both the good days and those that aren’t as good.
I researched the definition of a “cheerleader,” and it says nothing in the dictionary about it being associated with sports. It means? “One who supports and praises.” Synonyms include advocate, booster, encourager, friend and apostle!
Reading my Bible, I found that this New Living Translation uses the word “encourage” or “encourager” 29 times. The first use of the word is Isaiah 41:7 and the last, Philemon 1:20. In Isaiah the “carver encourages the goldsmith” and in Philemon, Paul asked for kindness to be shown to his “child in the faith,” Onesimus.
Paul writes that this would give him “encouragement.” Probably one of the most quoted verses is 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
What I have discovered is that our cheerleading days are never over. In fact, we are continuously called to “cheer” for those we meet. It’s easy to do with those who are rejoicing, those who are victorious. However, our mission is also to hang in there on the days when people aren’t winning.
Throughout our lives, we will encounter those who are struggling, lost and hopeless. Being a cheerleader will not always be an easy job, but it is one that is oh so necessary. Sometimes it requires words, sometimes not. Sometimes it might require only a listening ear or welcoming shoulder.
Being a cheerleader is not a job done only on sunny days; some days we’ll get cold, wet and dirty. Being a cheerleader takes practice, but it will become easier as we continue to remain involved.
Will we always have the right answers, the right words to say? Of course not, but, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about our willingness to show up for every game.
Mary Alice Weimer, one of The Star’s Faith Walk writers, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.