Popping the Lid: Human potential catalyzed by encouragement

Fleas can jump up to 200 times their size. Put them in a jar with a lid on it, and they are soon jumping only as high as they can without hitting the lid.

One Sunday I was the guest speaker at a small church. I went to the pastor’s home for the noon meal after the service. As we sat at the table, I could tell that this lunch was different; the pastor’s wife had set out the special napkins and silverware. The three children were on their best behavior.

The older son caught my attention. He was a tall, lanky kid with cerebral palsy. After getting acquainted, I said to him, “Alan, what subjects do you like in high school?”

With a smile, he answered, “Algebra. I love Algebra.”

I continued, “What do you want to do after you graduate from high school?”

With some hesitation, he responded, “Someday I’d like to be a math teacher.”

I said, “So where do you want to go to college?”

His father jumped in, “Alan’s handicapped; he’s not going to college.” The light in Alan’s face drained away.

Influential people often put a lid on those they lead.

When Steve Harvey was in sixth grade, his teacher asked the class to write down what they wanted to be when they grew up.  Harvey wanted to be on TV and wrote this on the paper.  The teacher scolded him for writing down something impossible and told him to go home and write down something more realistic.

“Little Stevie” went home discouraged. His father sat down with him and said, “Write down for the teacher something more believable – like ‘policeman’ – but keep your paper and look at it every day and believe that you will someday be on TV.”

Harvey’s story is one of perseverance in the face of hardship and incredible setbacks. Along the way, he found himself unemployed, divorced, and homeless. But he kept the paper. Today he is a successful comedian and talk show host, and travels in his own private plane.

He kept the paper. He credits his father for “popping the lid.” Human potential catalyzed by encouragement is a combustible recipe for the extraordinary.

Photo credit: Chiots Run

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