Simplicity Is The Glory Of Expression! (Or Why We All Need A Good Slap On The Back From Time To Time)

walt whitman hs

TheDiscipleMD

In February of 1974 I  found myself in the midst of the county wrestling championships. The wrestling tournament was always held at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland. Walt Whitman High School was home to an athletic facility that was matched by no other school in the county and possibly by no other school in the entire Washington D.C. metropolitan area. It’s two-story facility looked a lot like a Roman Coliseum with its double story decks of stands from which to watch. I’m not sure how many people it held but I was  intimidated by its size and structure. My weight class featured 18 wrestlers from across the county and although I had only lost one match at my weight during the season, I was seeded fifth. I had drawn a good seed but I could see that if I won my first two matches that I would face the favorite in the semi-finals. True to my prediction, after winning my first two matches I was matched up against this wrestler, the winner of which would go on to the championship. I didn’t like this other wrestler because he had unmercifully beaten me the year before in the tournament.  I really didn’t think I had a chance to beat him and though I tried to psych myself up into believing that I could,  in my heart, I just didn’t think I could do it.

It was a Saturday morning as I stood with the coach by my side in the locker room, waiting, waiting, waiting to hear my name announced. I was already perspiring and my heart was racing when I heard my match called out over the loudspeaker.  Just as I took a step forward to go out of the locker room I felt a hard slap on the back. I mean really hard. It was Bob, a teammate of mine. He yelled at me “Go get’em!” It may sound funny but I credit that “slap” on my back with being the catalyst for winning that day. I think I can say that he “slapped” the fear out of me. My adrenaline starting going as I ran out to wrestle that morning. Within fifteen minutes I stood in the middle of the mat as the referee raised my hand in an 8-7 victory. I went on to beat that same wrestler,  7-6 the next week to win the Regional Championship. But he got the last laugh by winning the State Championship the week following as I was knocked out by another wrestler and finished fourth.

I don’t think I ever told Bob that his act of encouragement helped me that day. But here it is, more than forty years later and I can still feel the sting of his slap, and the encouraging words. As Walt Whitman himself said: “Simplicity is the glory of expression.”  Yes, a habit of giving small words of encouragement to others can bring about great things in the lives of others and in how we view ourselves.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton once said “The Lord would have us mingle our voices of gladness with His to give strength, encouragement, and joy to His children.” Then told this simple story: ” I recall as a young boy going with my father to visit an elderly widow living in humble circumstances. We shared a couple of boxes of food with her. When we were leaving, her remarks touched my heart. She said, “Thank you, Bishop, and please come back again, even if it’s just to say hello.” “This was probably the first time I realized that the food items were appreciated but the words of encouragement…were of greater value.” (Ensign May 1991, ” A Voice of Gladness”).

Let us be liberal in giving words and acts of encouragement to others!  Giving a good ‘slap on the back’ to those we love and care for, can do wonders for their spirits, and fulfill our role as true Disciples of Jesus Christ.

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