We accidentally got to the library eight minutes early. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal . . . but with three spirited boys, eight extra minutes can feel like eight hours. At the time, my sons were seven, six, and four — the perfect ages for high curiosity and low impulse control. As we entered the small outer foyer and I realized the main library wasn’t open yet, low-grade panic set in. My kids were not cut from the “sit still and wait patiently” kind of cloth.
Thankfully we had a bag full of books to return. Let’s draw this out as long as possible, I thought. Each boy excitedly took turns feeding picture books into the automated return system. They oohed and aahed as the scanner scanned each barcode and the title appeared on the nearby screen (and then they shoved a brother to get a better look) as the conveyor belt carried each book to the appropriate bin. Dump. Again!
When our book bag was empty, they slurped water from the drinking fountain, hid under the massive stairwell, asked a gazillion questions about what would happen if the concrete cracked and fell on top of them and would they for sure be crushed and die? There were two trips to the bathroom and a thorough investigation of a row of cupboards that foolishly were void of padlocks. As the minutes inched on, more library patrons joined my energetic crew in the waiting vestibule. Staring eyes weren’t in short supply.
“Be aware of others. Stay near me. Quiet words, please,” I reminded them often.
My boys weren’t being bad — just inquisitive, antsy, talkative, active kids. And after eight minutes, their mama was exhausted. When the clock struck ten and the bell tower began to chime, the large sliding glass doors finally opened. The small crowd began filing into the sanctuary of books. Jude jumped and Elias squealed and Noah started to sprint as I reminded them again to please walk and use inside voices.
An older woman who had been waiting nearby caught my eye. “It’s going to be a long summer,” she said.
“Yeah, it is,” I replied with a weak smile and sigh.
Then her eyes brightened, and her smile warmed. “But you’re doing a great job. Thank you for being here,” she added.
I had braced myself for a stranger’s rebuke — parenting in public is one of the hardest things for me. In the little years, it made me sweat with anxiety. But instead of judgment I was met with the kindness of simple encouragement. All I could do was whisper, Thank you. She gave me a knowing nod and entered the library as I followed my sons — my back a bit straighter, my steps a bit lighter.
A small, unexpected thank-you from a stranger. A word to make someone feel seen. Is there an easier gift of kindness to give?
So I pass on these sweet words to you: Thank you. Thank you for changing diapers and reading stories. Thank you for going to work and still making dinner when you’re dog-tired. Thank you for cheering at swim lessons and folding laundry and answering the billionth question to quench a little person’s curiosity. Thank you for helping your neighbor and listening to your coworker. Thanks for getting to church early to set up or staying late to tear down. Thanks for mentoring that teenager. Thanks for doing your mundane job with a smile. Thanks for putting one foot in front of the other.
Thank you for being you. No one else could fill your shoes.
A small word of encouragement can make a significant impact in someone’s day. Green is a great color on you. You love well. I’m impressed by how you handled that. There are limitless possibilities for how we can build up others.
Proverbs 16:24 explains the significance of our words: “Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (NLT). I can’t count the times that my soul has been revived by the sweetness of someone’s words. Kind words have saved me from teetering over the edge of spiritual doubt and physical exhaustion. A timely word of encouragement has reeled me in from emotional overwhelm and mental fatigue. When I’ve spiraled into the black pit of anxiety and depression, words that remind me that I am loved as I am have made all the difference.
In honor of The National Day of Encouragement, consider how you can lavish the simple kindness of encouragement on those around you. Here are ten easy things you can say to encourage someone today:
- I see you.
- I’m proud of you.
- God made you beautiful.
- You shine doing that thing you’re created to do.
- I’m thankful for you.
- You inspire me.
- I appreciate your hard work.
- God delights in you.
- You make my day brighter.
- I’m grateful to call you friend.
Look for that frazzled mom in the grocery store or that shy coworker in the corner cubicle. Think of your best friend or the school secretary, the crossing guard or bus driver you pass every day. Stop and say, “Thank you for being here. You’re doing a great job. Your life makes mine better.”
My favorite thing about this is that the power of words is available, accessible, and wieldable for everyone. No one is disqualified from being an encourager.
Whether you’re a college student or a retired teacher. Whether you’ve got lots of littles hanging all over you or lots of deadlines hanging over your head. If you’re chronically ill, underemployed, or climbing the corporate ladder. If you’re happily married or happily single or going through a life-breaking divorce. No matter who you are, where you live, or what your circumstances are in this very moment, YOU can make a difference in someone’s life, one simple, encouraging word at a time.