When our daughter, Heather, and her family from Washington state come to visit all of us here (Her two brothers and their families live in our area.), we take our two granddaughters to the children’s museum.
This last time, Sophie (age eight) particularly enjoyed the simulated rock quarry, where children can learn about simple machines. Tools like shovels and wheelbarrows are provided. (That was three year-old Elena’s speed.)
Some of the equipment is more complicated, including, a rope-and-pulley scoop for picking up rocks then lifting them off the ground, and a crane to move the scoop over to a dump truck.
By trial-and-error Sophie figured out how to adjust the ropes for maneuvering the scoop into the pile of rocks, then tilt it upright. A tall, brawny boy—a football player in the making–came along to join in the play. He was probably about ten years old. I watched to see if he would use his size to take over the operation.
Instead, he and Sophie began to work together. He would pile rocks for her to scoop, then jump up to the heavy crane that would transfer the scoop over to the truck. He never bossed, but spoke respectfully. They had a grand time experimenting and problem-solving.
Once or twice the boy spoke to his mom. She was very busy keeping track of a younger son and toddler daughter. My thoughts returned to the days when our three children were young, and the exhaustion I experienced from time to time caring for them.
On our way out of the quarry-area, Heather, the girls, and I passed by that busy mom.
“Your son is a fine gentleman,” I said, then shared with her my observations.
A beautiful smile transformed her face. “Oh, thank you!” she enthused. “You never know if they’ll remember their manners.”
“Well, he sure is minding them this morning. You’re doing a great job!” And with a light squeeze on the young mother’s arm, I quick-stepped it to catch up with my girls.
Suddenly I noticed the atmosphere had changed. Those positive words meant to bless a busy mom had blessed me, too. An afterglow of joy filled my heart, just for trying to make someone else’s day a bit brighter.
Those wise words of Solomon proved true again:
(“He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
–Proverbs 11:25b NIV)
Of course, more important is the affirmation-afterglow in the life of that young mother. My prayer is our little conversation provides her with encouragement and confidence, to press on in her conscientious child-rearing.
I’m very hopeful of a such a result, based on my own experience at that stage of life. At least a couple of times when our children were small, a stranger stopped at our table in a restaurant and commended them for their calm behavior. Now, more than thirty years later, I still remember those spirit-lifting, confidence-building comments. (Although I must confess: at home they were anything but calm!)
I, for one, want to grow as an encourager—to strengthen the hearts of others as they face life’s challenges. Maybe you do, too.
Just how might we achieve that goal?
- A good place to begin is to share positive words based on our observations—even with strangers like that mom at the museum, or with diners at a restaurant.
- Be specific and give examples about the positive traits we see. Folks are often blind to their own commendable behaviors.
- Express appreciation for anything and everything. (We’ve mentioned this behavior before, but I need the reminder.) We can also increase the power of a thank-you by adding a smile, eye contact, and maybe even a touch on the arm if appropriate.
- Show interest in the thoughts and activities of others. Validation is a more powerful form of encouragement even than praise.
- Encourage the encouragers! We can tell others how their words have blessed us, to keep determination and confidence flowing among us.
Encouragement is indeed a powerful force, fostering perseverance, strength, and hope.
Best of all, it brings glory to God as we affirm his character in those around us.
* * * * * * * * * *
Thank you, Father, for the privilege of ministering encouragement, for the delight you engineer in the heart of the one who receives and the one who gives. May I scatter seeds of strength, hope, and confidence wherever I go.