Old Fashion Moral Support Still Has Value
My nephew and I were recently working on a crossword puzzle when we came across a difficult clue, and he turned to me for help. Without consciously thinking about it, out of my mouth came the words, “I’m here for moral support – you can do this.” I paused and smiled. How long had it been since I had dusted off that phrase?
As I think more about these words, I marvel at its simple wisdom and the many times during my growing up that I either heard it explicitly or experienced it in action from a parent, grandparent, coach or teacher. If an adult were giving “moral support” to face a challenge, accomplish a difficult task, or persevere through adversity, it meant that they were standing on the sidelines and usually not uttering a word. We knew they were supporting us and would step in if we were in any danger, but they were allowing us to handle the situation ourselves. They also were giving us a powerful message that they believed in us – in our ability to persevere and to learn.
Along with the “support” part of the equation, there was also the opportunity to teach or model morality – right and wrong. The goal was not only to get the job done, but to do it to one’s best ability. There was a standard and an expectation that was implicit in the support.
My stepfather was one of the strictest parents I have ever met. You might even say that he was unfair and unreasonable much of the time. However, he was a master at giving moral support. Any responsibility that he gave us was first a lesson. We learned to mow the lawn, trim the sails on the boat, and use tools in his shop. He took the time to teach us how to accomplish something, with the highest standards and with a purpose. After we completed each task, it was time for “inspection,” perhaps another outdated practice. The lawn was walked to ensure it was done correctly. Before operating the 17’ sailboat on our own, we had to pass a written test on nautical terms and complete a swimming test. Before using the family car, we had to learn to change a tire and earn $500 toward our own future vehicle.
When my children were younger, I volunteered in the second grade classroom. The students were writing two invitations to their parents for a puppet show. One little boy was really struggling, and I sat with him for half an hour to write one invitation. He eventually did a great job and was so proud of his efforts. As I moved on to work with another student, I overheard the teacher ask the little boy about his second invitation. He said he couldn’t do it by himself, and the teacher said she would write the invitation for him because it would save time. My heart sank.
How does that saying go? Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day…Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.