“Everyone needs encouragement.” My friend, Dr. Monty Knight, said as we rode to lunch. Dr. Arthur Caliandro, late pastor of Marble Collegiate Church, said, “Be kinder than you think it necessary to be. The other person needs it more than you know.” The Bible says, “Encourage one another and build each other up just as in fact you are doing” 1Thessalonians 5: 11. (NIV)
Our families, friends and neighbors are hurting. They are struggling. After two years of the Coved virus, isolation, the difficulty of obtaining supplies, school and drive-by shootings and now inflation have converged to take the fight out of so many.
The divisive political climate has had a negative effect on our trust in some of our most cherished institutions. The Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe vs. Wade has only added fuel to the fire. We must find a way to lift each other up.
Decades ago when I was a senior in high school, I was walking home from school. A prominent woman in our small town stopped her car beside me and said, “I like your poem in the school paper today.” Here was encouragement from an unexpected source. Obviously it had an important influence on my life because I remember it all these years later. She could have driven on by, but she didn’t. She stopped and encouraged a young boy.
We never know how far our words will go or the power they carry. For many years I wrote a weekly blog, “Thankful Thursday.” Each week I featured a person for whom I was grateful and encouraged others to thank those who are important to her or him. I could not have predicted the impact. Over and over again the subject of one of those blogs contacted me to say, “How could you have known how badly I needed your words of encouragement?”
Just this morning a sales associate of a major company across the country from me said. “I have had a good day. I haven’t encountered a rude or mean customer all morning.” How sad when we remember the days when someone was not mean or rude to us. Sixty years ago, a priest told my friend that her prayer of confession was unacceptable because, “You forgot the right way to end your prayer.” It was years before she returned to the confessional booth.
Closer to home, my late wife was discouraged from an art career by a father who said, “That’s a hobby not a profession.” She longed for words of encouragement from the minister father she idolized, but they never came. Consequently she would not tell you about her paintings unless you knew to ask. She was the most talented person I have known. I was reminded of her story this week’ There is an art show in my building. All the artists are senior citizens. A retired dentist said to me, “I never told anyone about my paintings. I thought I was not good enough. It is something I did after I got home from the office at night.” His work is magnificent.
In 2002 Marlo Thomas released a wonderful book, The Right Word at the Right Time, in which she recounts the stories of 101 people who were encouraged or discouraged by the words spoken to them. Muhammad Ali was told by his elementary school teacher, “You ain’t never gonna be nuthin’.” What a terrible thing to say to a child.
My second wife grew up under the most horrific circumstances with constant discouragement from her parents. Her seventh grade teacher, in contrast to the one Ali had, took notice of her work and determination. One day she announced to the class, “Carol is going to be a teacher.” That is all the encouragement Carol needed. She retired after 28 years as a very successful teacher. She had three completely new computer labs during her career. She is the only person I know who received more money in a grant than she requested. Scores of young people have a better chance of success because a 7th grade teacher encouraged Carol to become a teacher.
The scriptures are right. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
- Proverbs 25: 11-13.
Mitch Carnell is the author of Our Father; Discovering Family, and the founder of Say Something Nice Sunday, the first Sunday in June. He is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston. He blogs at www.mitchcarnell.com.