A recent story featured on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” epitomizes the power of Encouraging Other Kids.
Bill Hansbury, also known as “Boston Bill,” is a 72-year-old avid cyclist and runner. In February 2008, while riding his road bike, Bill crossed paths with the Bainter family in a moment that would change his life and the life of a young boy:
Given their situations, Bill was a perfect “grandfather” figure for Jacob. And whether their meeting was, as the video says, a “twist of fate” or an appointment arranged by “somebody else,” part of what makes this story so moving is Bill’s immediate response and his sense of calling to help Jake.
From the first moments of their meeting, Bill recognized that he was uniquely equipped to be a mentor, and he followed through. Even during that first meeting, he spoke words of encouragement; the next day, he stopped at the hospital to see his new friend; he called regularly to check in and help Jake and his parents through the phantom pains, and he let them know what to expect each step along the way; and he has pursued an ongoing, day-to-day friendship with Jake, building an “extremely close” relationship. Recently, Jake’s mom said, “We have our little boy back,” and Bill has had a lot to do with that. More on the story.
Two lessons emerge from this amazing story: First, like Bill, you have something to offer other kids around you. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you’ll notice opportunities to invest in a child who may need you more than you can imagine. Does that require a major commitment? Maybe, maybe not. But keep in mind that you will benefit from the investment as well. As Bill said, “Not only am I good for Jake, but he is good for me.”
And lesson number two comes from Jake’s father Brett: it’s good to get other men involved in your children’s lives. During their first meeting, it was Brett who got out of the car, approached Bill, and asked him to talk to his son. In the same way, even kids like yours, who do have an involved father, can still benefit from the experiences and insights of a caring father figure. Other men have different experiences and interests and talents that may intersect with your child’s situation, and you can’t be too proud to ask those guys to help your child.
Dad, you too have opportunities to invest in the lives of other kids who need what a father provides. Please make yourself available and be willing to respond and help. Your children and other children benefit greatly when mature men — father figures — acknowledge them, affirm them, challenge them, and live responsibly before them.
- When you go on outings with one of your kids, be intentional about occasionally including another child or two who needs a fatherly influence.
- Talk with your family about another child who needs encouragement, and take your whole family to watch and cheer for him or her at a sports event, recital, performance, etc.
- One great way to encourage other kids: spend a day at your child’s school through the WATCH D.O.G.S. program. Find out more.
- Seek out older men in your life who can mentor you in some way or become a father figure in your life.
- Make yourself available to any child in need. Look for opportunities to have a positive influence in their lives.