When Elliott came off the field after a recent soccer game, I told him I saw him do something in that game that was better than anything I'd ever seen him do on an athletic field. The one thing he would have to be able to do to be great at any sport. When he asked me what that was, I told him I saw him cheer with greater excitement for a teammate who scored than I'd ever seen him cheer for one of his own goals.
You hear it said of so many great athletes: they make those around them better. And when you get a chance to hear some of these greats talk, you realize it's not just because they are great athletes themselves and everyone around them is naturally better because of their contributions - although that certainly is a factor - but you hear in their voices a burning and genuine desire for their teammates to do well. They celebrate it.
I was thinking about that whole concept this week and how, as it relates to greatness, it extends far beyond sports.
Katie just started her own photography business and it has gotten off to a great start. A lot of that has to do with her talent for taking pictures. She understands lighting and shutter speeds and apertures and lots of other photography jargon you just don't pick up on pulling your iPhone from your pocket and snapping random pictures. Believe me, I know. Talent alone carries you only so far, though. There are tons of photographers around. Many of them also understand the jargon and have fancy, high dollar cameras that make taking bad pictures a bigger challenge than catching a good one.
But there is often a gulf between the talented - and the great. I think what makes Katie a great photographer is her genuine interest in the joy and contentment others are experiencing in their own lives and within their families, and she is passionate about capturing that with her camera. Her drive to be a great photographer isn't centered on being the best photographer in the world, but in showcasing the goodness in others.
Celebrating others isn't as easy as it sounds. It's risky. The more time you spend celebrating others the more likely it is you'll begin to feel like you're giving more celebration than you're receiving. That doesn't sit well in a world that increasingly promotes the value of self-esteem far more than it promotes others-esteem. Once you get a taste of that promotion and experience how good your own hand feels patting against your own back, it's very difficult to take it away long enough to pat someone else's.
Our pastor, Pastor Chad, has spent the last several weeks talking about doing for others. He has been quite frank in his challenge for our church and the Christian community in general to get off the sidelines of faith and actually do something with it. His words hit home. I've been thinking about how much easier it is to do nothing for people we don't celebrate. I think about the world of corporate CEO's who climb their way to the top without ever recognizing the people along the way who help get them there. If you can pretend no one gave you a ride to the party, you feel no obligation to buy them a drink once you get there.
I constantly celebrate our boys. Their reading and writing. How fast they run. The stories they create. Recognizing what their doing in their lives is such a big part of my love for them; it fuels my desire to do things for them. I have to ask myself, if I celebrated more of what my neighbors are doing, would I love them more, and want to do more for them. I don't know. There does seem to be something to it, though. I'm not sure I've ever seen someone who makes a habit out of celebrating others wearing a frown. I know Elliott's big leaping smile when he celebrated the goal his buddy scored was as big as a smile gets. Someone on my team is going to score a goal tomorrow. I'm sure of it. I hope I celebrate it.