Nancy and I were blessed to have our daughter, Allison, visit us over the weekend. It is a significant sacrifice for her to visit us as it is a five hour car trip from her home in Bellevue to our home in Spokane; that is when I-90, including Snoqualmie Pass, is clear. Yesterday, during her trip West the pass was not clear. We checked the on-line report before she left and thought that she would not have trouble. However, somewhere around Moses Lake, Allison saw an alert that chains would be required for her to make it over the pass. Her first instinct was to call me.
During the rest of the evening we communicated back and forth. As I sat in my comfortable warm house, I thought about what real value I was adding to Allison’s situation. Why was it important to her to have me involved? I was not able to offer any physical help. I know how to purchase and put on car chains, but I could not do it for her. I was not there. Also, due to my physical distance, I could not directly assess her situation and I refused to make decisions for her. She was responsible to gather data and chart her course. So, what value was I adding that made her continue to call me during the next couple hours as she walked through a stressful set of circumstances?
After discovering that she needed chains, she decided to keep going. She stopped in Ellensburg and bought chains. She drove on to the pass. Pulled over in the dark and, after recruiting help from strangers, got the chains on. Drove over the pass. Again pulled over in the dark and took the chains off by herself. And, finally safely arrived safely in Bellevue.
I imagine most people would be intimated by the situation Allison found herself in yesterday. Certainly Allison was. Yet, as she took one step at a time, she handled it very well. What was it that enabled her to succeed? She called it moral support. The last thing she said during our final phone call was, “Thank you for being there for me. The moral support really helped.”
What real value was I able to offer? Vicarious courage. My simple words of encouragement increased her chances of success. Three or four times she felt like giving up. Each time I said, “You can do this.” She believed me and pushed on. Before long, she was through the stress and safely on her way.
I don’t mean to take away from the courage she demonstrated. She was very brave throughout the evening. In fact, one way she expressed her courage was to acknowledge she did not have enough and she asked/allowed me to vicariously make up the difference.
Recognizing this cause me to look for others who need vicarious courage. Who else can I encourage with a, “You can do it!” I want to be the kind of leader who helps those around me succeed by offering them moral support.