We sat enjoying our traditional vacation early morning at Cracker Barrel, sipping our coffee and noshing on Grandma’s Pancake breakfast. The older woman behind us was unlike most of this morning’s customers. She sat primly, beautifully coiffed hair, meticulous dress and make up. A frazzled young mother rushed in, hip-toting a baby girl who squealed and reached for the older woman. Both baby and grandmother lit up with remarkable and pure love.

As they ordered, the older woman danced a delicate ballet between occupying the toddler and attending to her mom.

“You’re doing such a good job of juggling it all!”

“Oh! Look at your yummy eggs!”

“She’s such a smart little girl! I can tell you spend so much time reading and playing with her.”

The frazzled young mother and the exuberant baby both fed off of grandmother’s energy, her calm strength, her genuine love.

On and on it went. I watched, mesmerized by how grandmother kept both mom and baby afloat, happy, encouraged.

At first, I felt a wave of sadness for the grandmother. She gave and gave and gave, and I doubt was asked a single question about herself or her own life, even as she gracefully inquired about theirs.

And then I realized this IS her life. Grandmother didn’t need to be asked about her book club, her prayer group, her garden. Her obvious and contagious joy came from actively loving these two in front of her. Her soul was being fed with giggles and syrupy hands and tired smiles. Grandmother surely left every bit as happy and encouraged as those she poured her love upon.

It was a simple breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and yet, it was a joyful, selfless act of showering love.

Grandmother was an epic cheerleader. She came ready to play the game, and to play to win. She watched each move, and adapted her responses and love accordingly. She kept the crowd’s energy positive and and at a peak. And she was victorious, because the baby happily waved bye bye, and her exhausted daughter lingered in her mother’s long, strong hug.

As precious as the baby girl was, it was grandmother who captivated me. Her generous gift of focused attention, flowing encouragement and unconditional love seemed like a stark contrast to the quiet, sleepy, somewhat grouchy vibes of the rest of the room.

Grandmother showed up ready to love and listen. Dressed in her Sunday best, she came to the field fully prepared to cherish the time with her girls. She lit up from her marrow when her beleaguered daughter and squirmy granddaughter entered her sight, She infused joy, love and nurturance into their time together.

Oh, how we could all benefit from some hash brown casserole shared with such light and focused love, to have a cheerleader in our lives who is fully present, every ready for what we bring.

You know who they are. The people in your life we go to when weary, discouraged, celebratory. We need that person who cheers us on, holding pep rallies for our life based only on their sheer and endless love for our existence.

We breathe, grow under the rah rah rah of their unconditional love. Though it may seem that Life sometimes conspires to knock down our carefully balanced pyramid of existence, these people are our “catchers”, the ones waiting below with arms out ready to have our backs if we fall.

Funny how the cheerleaders get a lot of attention, but none of the glory. The glory goes to the players on the field, the ones making the scores. Yet, here’s the thing about cheerleaders…they don’t want the glory, they want you to win. Just like grandmother, your victory is theirs.

So go sit in the stands and cheer on your loved ones, clapping with delight and encouragement. Wear your team colors, let your people know you’re fully present and all the way in. Celebrate both wins and losses, and keep that sense of pride and encouragement rolling.

Cheerleaders rule the world.

Because of the love.

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