There was a young boy born who by his own account (and I suppose his teachers) was not very successful in school. Most subjects just did not come easy for him. He liked sports but realized that he wasn’t good enough to make that a future goal. There was one other class that he enjoyed. It was art, and soon his teacher recognized that he was good at it. He settled into the idea that art would be the direction he would pursue in life.
At age 14, the young man began having trouble seeing the board at school, so his mother took him to the optometrist. The doctor found that he was nearsighted and as they were leaving the appointment the doctor offhandedly asked his mother if she knew that her son was colorblind. He recalled that the doctor then said, “It’s no big deal unless he wants to be an electrician or a dermatologist.” Then he chuckled and said, “or an artist.”
As the fourteen-year-old and his mom got in the car, he was visibly upset. When his mother asked him, what was wrong, Through his tears he uttered, “He said, ‘artist.’” His mother immediately reached over to him, called him by name and said “Your art is beautiful. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t be an artist.”
As I sat in the audience, some forty years later and listened to this man recount his story, his next words were profound. He said, “Had it not been for this immediate positive response from my mother, I might have given up on my art.” After all these years, this now successful artist gives credit for his success to the encouragement of his mother and more specifically to her words on one particular day when he was fourteen years old. The world told him he couldn’t, but his mother told him he could. Wow! What power a mother’s words carry.
This man is writer and illustrator Loren Long. He is the #1 New York bestselling Illustrator of President Barack Obama’s picture book Of Thee I Sing. He is also known for illustrating Madonna’s children’s book Mr. Peabody’s Apples and re-illustrating classic books such as The Little Engine that Could. His success continues with his own series of Otis the Tractor books. Long’s most recent release is a book written by Matt De La Pena called Love. His breathtaking illustrations in this book bring to life this insightful story. You can find Mr. Long at his website lorenlong.com.
As mothers, we are accountable for the words that we speak to our children. They have life-changing power. We are human, and we won’t always say the right thing, but when we do fail, we can ask forgiveness from our heavenly father and our children. As mothers let’s use our words to speak life and encouragement to our children. Let’s guard our words and be aware that they can be a weapon or a tool.
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life,but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4) (NIV)