Encouraging Words - Midweek Musing 10/7/2021
Recently, I heard a touching story which illustrates the power of words and how they can change a life.
Mary had grown up knowing that she was different from the other kids, and she hated it. She was born with a cleft palate and had to bear the jokes and stares of cruel children who teased her non-stop about her misshapen lip, crooked nose, and garbled speech.
With all the teasing, Mary grew up hating the fact that she was "different". She was convinced that no one outside her family could ever love her. That is until she entered Mrs. Leonard's class.
Mrs. Leonard had a warm smile, a round face, and shiny brown hair. While everyone in her class liked her, Mary came to love Mrs. Leonard.
In the 1950s, it was common for teachers to give their children an annual hearing test. However, in Mary's case, in addition to her cleft palate, she was barely able to hear out of one ear. Determined not to let the other children have another "difference" to point out, she would cheat on the test each year. The "whisper test" was given by having a child walk to the classroom door, turn sideways, close one ear with a finger, and then repeat something which the teacher whispered.
Mary turned her bad ear towards her teacher and pretended to cover her good ear. She knew that teachers would often say things like, "The sky is blue," or "What color are your shoes?" But not on that day. Surely, God put seven words in Mrs. Leonard's mouth that changed Mary's life forever. When the
"Whisper test" came, Mary heard the words: "I wish you were my little girl."
In those simple words Mary’s life was changed. She began to come out of her shell and discovered she had talents in art—drawing and painting. Later she went on to become both an artist and a teacher.
But throughout her life, when she was asked what led to her success, she would respond: “The words of Mrs. Leonard.”
I wish I had the words to communicate the incredible blessing that affirming words have on not only children but adults as well.
I also wish that you could be a fly on the wall in my office and hear the pain in a child’s voice and see the tears streaming down cheeks when hurtful and sometimes even downright cruel words are spoken to them. And while sometimes these unkind words come from peers, too often they come from adults in these students’ lives including even their parent.
I believe that terrible damage can happen to individuals when they fail to receive affirming words.
However, kind and affirming words can melt a heart and even transform a life.
If affirming words are something that have been rarely shared with you, I want you to hear this and remember it.
You are loved!
God loves you!
You are a child of God!
1 John 3:1a, “See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are!” And as Pope John Paul the II proclaimed, “Every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God.”
Friends, as followers of the living God part of our call is to share encouragement.
In the Book of Proverbs we read, “Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up.”
Later we read the words that Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians, “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
And then in Philippians we find these poetic words, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, take account of these things.”
The world needs words of encouragement, but more than that someone you know needs to hear a word of encouragement. So, take the time to share it. Don’t wait—do it today.
And if you are not sure where to start or what to say, I have you covered with three documents attached with over 150 encouraging phrases. Perhaps you could try a new one every day and then start over.
Because that word of encouragement can make all the difference in the world.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia Amen.