Jazz musician, Wynton Marsalis, had a great uncle who cut stone for a New Orleans cemetery. On a small stone, he engraved the words, “Don’t Be Discourage.” He ran out of room for the last D. However, Marsalis, who still has the stone, said he likes it that way, as it keeps it in the present tense.*
I smiled when I read this story today in the Wall Street Journal and began to wonder about this man who took the time to carve those letters on a stone so many years ago. What seems like a simple act, has, in fact, been quite influential. Not only to Marsalis personally, but it’s now published in a newspaper that has a circulation of over 2 million people.
Why did he carve those words? There are other sequences of encouraging words to choose from: Smile, pass it on; dive into your dreams; let yourself shine, the power of now, etc. Although we may never know his reasons, I would venture to say, that his advice is worth more than almost any other three words put together (with or without the D).
Discouragement is a cruel master. We face it at every turn, whether it has taken hold in our own heart or we’ve had to watch it destroy those around us. There are those who even seek to sow the seeds of discouragement in others, knowing full well that once it grows, they will have relinquished their power and influence.
What’s to be done? I would do what the stonecutter did. I would carve those words in my heart, in the hearts of all of those whom I love and anyone else who has been a victim of anything that tries to defeat love, hope, and life.
Besides my figurative carving skills, it comes down to one simple thing. Choice. No matter what has happened to us in the past, we have a choice right now to listen to those three words.
Be courageous. Live in the present tense.
*Wall Street Journal, Jazzy Wynton Marsalis (from an interview by Darrell Hartman)