Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Gift of Encouragement

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

What is one of the single most powerful tools you possess that can have a lasting impact on another human being?

The gift of encouragement.

A short note of encouragement can have a powerful effect on others…A word of appreciation can send forth ripples of impact that last a lifetime. Anyone is a candidate for an encouraging note. One of the natural outcomes of my pressed flower card business was actually using the cards, and I've gradually become very interested in the art of ecouragement.

At first thought, it may seem that writing a note to someone is hard, and sometimes it can be. But, keep in mind that our words don’t have to be polished, or breathtakingly eloquent. Simple, heartfelt words will go the distance, and span the gap from your heart, to theirs.

One of the best notes of encouragement I ever received was during my sophomore year of college. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and one snowy day I was working in the mailroom of the Plant Pathology department, cold and damp from biking to campus in the snow, dreading upcoming exams, and wondering where I really fit in this world. As I was sorting through the mail, putting each envelope onto the appropriate faculty mailbox, I was stunned to find that one of the envelopes was addressed to me! I opened it up, and on the inside of a dime store card were the simple words, “Liz, I like you!” It was signed by an older woman who was one of the department secretaries, whom I assumed never even knew I existed. That simple, totally unexpected note made my miserable day! That simple note had the power to lift me beyond my present circumstances – something I hadn’t been able to do myself.

These days, in the age of instant messaging and e-mail, just the effort of obtaining a card, addressing the envelope, and putting a stamp on it, speaks volumes. Only a few heartfelt words are needed for a truly encouraging note.

Here are some ideas to get you started on your quest to becoming an encourager:

*Commit a random act of kindness, by simply letting someone know you appreciate them

*Encourage someone after a difficult loss is perhaps the most challenging kind of note to write, but say a prayer and do your best. Your efforts will give the recipient something to keep, share, and re-read, in other words, you will be blessing them with lasting encouragement, to get them through the difficult days ahead.

Here’s a challenge for you – it’s actually a challenge I received from a godly friend years ago: send one note of encouragement a week. Just think of the positive impact you can have in this world, by encouraging 52 other people this year! I must admit that I haven’t been able to keep up that pace, so I have revised this goal to a monthly one. On the first of every month, I select one of my pressed flower cards, and send it off. And you know, nine times out of ten, I end up receiving encouragement from those I try to encourage! What a blessing, from so little effort.

”Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”1Thessalonians 5:11