I am all for practicing random acts of kindness but lately I have been thinking about intentional acts of encouragement. I read a little vignette recently of a woman who said although she was physically disabled and couldn't do much in the way of helping others, she could think and pray for their needs. She offered her service of prayer to her local church.
I thought Wow! Here was someone who could just close down and concentrate on her own needs yet she was willing to reach out to others. Too often when we think only of ourselves and we become isolated. Yet by her intentionality I am sure she felt part of a larger community.
It made me think of two times in my life when I received contact from people I didn't know too well who offered me prayer and encouragement.
A long time ago I was part of a book club. I really enjoyed it but sometimes I was a little intimidated by the books, the discussions, and some of the other members and their opinions. I always felt that I had so much to learn and that I was so inept in sharing my rudimental thoughts. Out of the blue one of the very opinionated members called me. She didn't talk very long. She just wanted to say that she valued my opinion and that it was a joy having me in the group. Then she said, "That's it. That is what I wanted you to know."
At first I was taken aback. So unexpected and so brusque like her personality. But I cherished what she said and I was gob-struck that she actually called me to tell me what she was thinking. I know that many times I think of others through out the day but I very rarely let them know the positive thoughts I have about them. I wonder what our society would look like if people said the positive things directly to the ones about whom they are thinking? We are very quick to say our displeasure but what if instead we were quick to say our good thoughts?
Once I was in charge of a volunteer group that was charged with coordinating the emergency needs of others. It was very stressful and intense. Many times I felt inadequate and overwhelmed. On one particular time when I really felt at the end of my rope wondering how I got myself into this group and questioning why I felt God had called me to this ministry, I received an email from a couple I didn't know too well. They had taken upon themselves to systematically pray for the various ministries and groups and especially for their leaders. That week the group for which I was responsible was at the top of the list. They wanted to know how they could pray, what specific things and especially for me, what did I need? Again, I was speechless.
In psychology there is a benefit for positive thinking. It changes one's brain chemistry which in turn is good for our health. Yet I believe that prayer to God goes beyond the idea of positive thinking. Prayer is a way to hand over our worries to one who is a lot larger than we are and who is in total control. Prayer can change circumstances for whom we pray and it changes us as we pray. That is not to say that we just ask and God provides everything like a cosmic genie in the bottle. The process of praying helps redefine our requests, helps us put our life's circumstances in perspective, helps us in our attitude towards the one for whom we pray and helps us to be part of one another's lives by drawing us closer to one another.
How about making today, the day that you practice intentional acts of encouragement? Pray for the people you meet, whether they be familiar to you or not. Intentionally pray for those who are in positions of leadership- a boss, a manager, a teacher, a principal, a politician, etc. Let those around you know that you are praying for them. Let people around you know what they mean to you. Doesn't have to be a long discourse, just a simple, "I really enjoy your quips and sense of humor, " for example.
What would your life look like if you practiced intentional acts of encouragement?