On Encouragement.

On Encouragement.

A school bus driver in Massachusetts has his students to thank for encouraging him to become a history teacher. While driving kids to school, Clayton Ward would talk to them about their history lessons. “It inspired me, hearing them say ‘You should be my teacher,'” the 30-year old bus driver said. He had dropped out of college 10 years ago but through the encouragement of the students and his love of history, he enrolled in Community College and graduated with a 4.0 GPA while continuing to drive the bus. He has now enrolled this fall at Framingham State University to finish his bachelor’s in history with a minor in education.

Make no mistake. A small word of encouragement can inspire another person to do great things.

You were likely inspired by a teacher, mentor, community leader or classmate to become what you are today. Have you taken a moment to let those people know you’re thinking of them during this pandemic?

My graduate program director noticed my interest in treating cleft lip and palate patients and my love of teaching. Every summer, I volunteer to teach molecular biology to incoming pre-dental students who needed a little extra help. She pulled me aside one day and said, “I think you would make a great part-time instructor. How would you like to shadow me at the hospital and see if the cleft palate team is something that interests you?”

That small bit of encouragement, likely unnoticed by her, as she was a natural motivator of scores of residents, went a long way to inspire this country bumpkin from the farm fields of southern Ohio. Hundreds of cleft kids have now been treated for free through The Rheam Foundation, named after my grandfather, because of her inspiration and encouragement.

Have you leaned into your position of influence with your patients, employees and community at large?

A small word of encouragement from an orthodontist, dentist, lawyer, surgeon or business leader can go a long way in making this world a better place. Even if it seems superficial, a kind word can make a tremendous positive impact on someone’s day and perhaps even more.

My friend and I ride 31 miles, round trip, on our bikes to get coffee at what I believe is the best place in town. The last time we went, I made it a point to tell the owner that I think he makes the finest cup of joe in the entire city. You should have seen his eyes light up. “Thank you,” he said, “you have no idea how much that means to me right now.”

As a small business owner adapting to the pandemic, I certainly do understand what encouragement means to anyone who is tasked with creating pay checks and navigating an enterprise, no matter how big or how small, through a storm.

Just like the students on his school bus encouraged Mr. Ward to become a history teacher, you and I can encourage other local business owners to keep chasing the challenge of producing quality products. We can encourage our employees to lean into their higher sense of purpose. We can encourage our patients to make a difference in this world.

Today there is someone waiting for you to encourage and inspire them to become what they know they could be. Don’t take this responsibility lightly.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.