Encouraging Growth; Imperfectly and Beautifully.

Recently, my father emailed me a photo of my great grandfather Edgar Hawley from the mid-1940s. On my great grandfather’s lap are my two aunts (my father was not yet born). In my dad’s email, he remembered that Edgar would often take him on adventures in his Jeep around Yuma, Arizona.

As I’ve reflected on this photo over the last several days, I’ve spent time thinking about the Guiding Principle to Encourage Growth. For me, this photo emphasizes this principle. It is those that come before us that encourage our growth, help us to believe in ourselves when are learning new pathways, and provide loving accountability when needed. 

My great grandfather did this for his grandchildren and my father did this for me. It wasn’t perfect, sometimes it was the opposite of perfect. The good news is that we don’t have to be related to encourage growth in others. 

Every day at Recovery Cafés across the country, individuals with 15 years of recovery are encouraging growth in those with 15 months of recovery, who are themselves encouraging growth in individuals with 15 days. Those that have come before us in this journey encourage our growth and gives us the courage to encourage the growth of others. 

What does encouraging growth look like at a Recovery Café? I think of a moment from a Recovery Circle several years ago. I had two women among others in my circle. One was in transitional housing and the other was couch surfing. Over a period of several months, I saw them support and encourage growth in each other. Imperfectly, and amidst their own struggles, I saw each reflect back on each’s strengths, suggested new approaches to problems, provided resources to connect with, and most of all believed in each other. Through this weekly encouragement of each other, the first reconnected with family in Montana and returned there, and the second secured a restaurant job and got an apartment. Before COVID, the second would occasionally stop by and check-in, let me know how she and the first woman were doing.  They truly encouraged growth in each other. 

As I reflect on the photo of my great grandfather, I see what encouraging growth can do over decades and generations. It can make the world a better place one act of encouragement at a time. At Recovery Café, we see that act of love every day. 

Over the next week, how will you encourage growth in others? Will it be like my great grandfather to his grandchildren? Like two friends? A path of your own making? 

Happy Holidays! 

_ David Uhl, Director of Recovery Café Network