This week I witnessed the power of encouragement for both the encourager and the recipient. We may live in a time when people use their words as weapons of division and destruction but I do believe that words can still be used as tools for reconciliation and improvement.
I play tennis with a variety of women. They come from different backgrounds: religious, socio-economical, age, life experiences, professions. The other day I was playing with two who work in the school system- one as a social worker and the other as a reading specialist. The reading specialist shared that she had an encounter with a parent on her walk to work. The parent shared his gratitude in her helping his child who was having difficulty learning to read. "You've changed the trajectory of his life."
My friend was flabbergasted. What an awesome statement and what an awesome responsibility. But because of that parent's comments, it made her day. It still encourages her even on days when the teaching is incredibly difficult and she wonders if she is making any impact.
My other friend was sharing the difficulty that her school faces in trying to provide structure and consistency for children whose life circumstances are beyond control. The children in her school have witnessed and are living lives that we pray no one has to experience much less small children. Much of the time spent is not in educational instruction but in helping these children calm down and be somewhat prepared to learn.
She was sharing that when she can, she tries to share with parents their children's good behavior. She shared that a little first grader always says "Good morning. How are you?" to her. Even if my friend doesn't initiate the conversation the little one makes her way to my friend and will initiate a hello. My friend saw the girl's mother and told her what a well-mannered child she had. As the mother and daughter were leaving the school, my friend overheard the mother tell her little girl how it made her quite proud to hear how thoughtful and mannerly she was.
The thing is, both my friends have anecdotal experiences of the power of receiving of a compliment and in the giving of one. It is a continuous spiral of goodwill. Compliments give us the encouragement to go on doing what we are doing. It says "I recognize the hard work you are doing. Your deeds are not unnoticed or without merit." Encouragement of others, provides the giver the pleasure and satisfaction in knowing one's words made another's day. I can think of nothing better than making someone else feel good about him/herself.
What about you? Have you received any encouragement in the form of compliments? How can you encourage those around you today? Do you look for ways to encourage others? What would it take for you to offer a few nice words?
When we engage in uplifting and edifying conversation of one another we build up community. It is an upward spiral of encouragement. And God knows, we need it.