One day in the eleventh grade Leslie went into a classroom to wait for a friend. The teacher asked him to go to the blackboard. “I’m not one of your students,” he replied.
The teacher said, “Doesn’t matter. Go to the board anyhow.”
The student told him he couldn’t, and when the teacher asked why, the student told him he was mentally retarded.
“Don’t ever say that,” said the teacher. “Someone’s opinion does not have to be your reality.”
The teacher, Mr. Washington, became Leslie’s mentor. Later that year Washington addressed the graduating seniors: “You have greatness within you. . . . You can touch millions of lives.”
After the speech Leslie asked Mr. Washington if he had greatness within him. The teacher replied, “Yes, Mr. Brown, you do.”
In his senior year Leslie was placed in Mr. Washington’s speech and drama class. Although Leslie was a special education student, the principal realized that this would be a good match. Mr. Washington gave Leslie a larger vision of himself. While other teachers passed him from class to class, Mr. Washington demanded more of him. He enabled Leslie to believe in himself.
Years later Leslie C. “Les” Brown went on to produce five specials on public television, became an Ohio public servant, a motivational speaker and author, and host of The Les Brown Show.
When others believe in us, when we believe in ourselves, we gain confidence to think and do great things. However, good thoughts don’t preclude good actions. We still have to apply ourselves. Les Brown had to work hard to finish high school. But the encouragement and corresponding good thoughts motivated him to overcome his challenges. Our children and fellow believers need to hear affirming words. Such words and thoughts will motivate those around us to aspire to greater heights.
An inspirational quotation for young and old is found in the book Messages to Young People. Ellen White challenges her readers: “Dear youth, what is the aim and purpose of your life? Are you ambitious for education that you may have a name and position in the world? Have you thoughts that you dare not express, that you may one day stand upon the summit of intellectual greatness; that you may sit in deliberative and legislative councils, and help to enact laws for the nation? There is nothing wrong in these aspirations. You may every one of you make your mark. You should be content with no mean attainments. Aim high, and spare no pains to reach the standard.”1
The quotation abounds with lofty, motivational words and phrases, such as “aim,” “purpose,” “ambitious,” “name and position,” “intellectual greatness,” “legislative councils,” “aspirations,” “attainment,” “aim high,” “spare no pains,” “reach the standard.” These words have been a constant source of inspiration and motivation to countless individuals who have found in them motivation to dream big and aim high.
As we soar, let us temper our aspirations with corresponding anchoring principles. Ellen White added: “Balanced by religious principle, you may climb to any height you please. We would be glad to see you rising to the noble elevation God designs that you shall reach. Jesus loves the precious youth; and He is not pleased to see them grow up with uncultivated, undeveloped talents. They may become strong men [and women] of firm principle, fitted to be intrusted with high responsibilities, and to this end they may lawfully strain every nerve.”2
As we drop seeds of encouragement, we will raise plants of greatness in lives of unselfish service.