"Encourage one another and build each other up..."
1 Thessalonians 5:11(NIV)
Dear Readers, in case you are wondering about this entry as a re-post, it is for an opportunity to be visited by Proverbs 31 Ministries. A writing contest is being sponsored on the web site of Lysa TerKeurst. The winner is to be announced on Monday and will be published in their magazine. I'll be back to regular posting on Monday. Have a great weekend!Last night before drifting off to sleep my mind clicked back in time to about ten years ago. I was wondering what became of a little boy who was part of our church bus ministry. I spent some time praying for him and hoped that now that he is in his teen years he was doing well. This little guy captured my heart and I've thought about him often over the years. I first met him when a couple in our church started a bus ministry. That first group of children were a rag tag bunch indeed. Mostly they were from a low income area and often were sent on the bus by parents who wanted a break or free baby sitting for a couple of hours. They were often rolled out of bed and put straight on the bus without breakfast so we fed them a hearty hot meal when they arrived. Many of these precious little ones where starved not only for food but for attention, affirmation, and were in great need of encouragement.
Once a month my husband and I filled in teaching for the regular children's ministry leaders so they could have a break. I really saw that these children needed to be encouraged and wanted to find a way to fill this need. At the time I had just read Silver Boxes by Florence Littauer and it gave me an idea.
We had an object lesson on building one another up with encouragement and then I had all the children gather around the art table. I presented each child a small silver painted box with a little silver bow on top. At each place there was a pencil and a piece of paper that contained a grid of boxes. At the top of each box was written, "You are special because..." or "I like you because...." The children were instructed to write their name at the top of the page and then pass their paper to the person on their right. Then each child was to fill in an answer for one of the writing prompts for the child who's name was at the top of the page and then keep passing and filling in answers until their page was returned.
You would have thought you were watching a group of excited wiggly puppies as anticipation grew with each passing sheet of paper. I wish you could have seen their little faces when their papers were returned to them, eyes were shining and smiles stretched from ear to ear. One little girl hated her red hair but was thrilled to get this message, "You are special because...You have red hair and it is the bestest happiest color to have." One little boy was painfully shy and he receive this message, "I like you because....We can be friends and play with no talking, just smiles." All the children were allowed to read their little slips of encouragement aloud and then I instructed them to carefully cut each one apart and place them in their silver box along with a message I had written for each of them. I told them that when they had a bad day, felt lonely, or sad that they could take out these little messages and remember that they are special, important, and loved. I felt a gentle tap on my arm and there stood the one who had captured my heart. He looked up at me with the most earnest expression on his face and said, "Miss Sandy, I never been 'preciated 'afore, this is great! I am going to keep my box forever!" He flung himself into my arms for a big hug and I watched him depart to board the bus back home. There was a spring in his step, a smile on his face, and a handful of encouragement clutched to his breast.
I knew a bit of what that little guy faced when he stepped back off that bus and I hoped his little silver box would soften it for him some. His family moved away not long after this so I don't know where he is or how his life has turned out but I know I did my best during the time that our lives touched to encourage him. Encouragement softens the hardness along the way. It lightens the difficulty of a task and it blesses the recipient on the journey in life. It supplies us in times of famine and strengthens us when we are weak. Encouragement is a companionship in trial and lifts a bit of the shadow of care. Perhaps you know someone who could use a cup of encouragement today. I encourage you to offer a few kind words to someone you know that needs a little lift. Pour a bit of yourself into someone else's empty little cup, offer them a refill, to help soften trying circumstances, to put a smile on a face, or to fill an empty spot with warmth and love. One cup of encouragement, so easily given, can make a difference.
May each of your cups be full today with knowing that you are much appreciated by me.Blessings,