A few weeks ago I got a message from someone I met through my job. She said she’d decided to pursue her photography hobby more seriously, and told me she’s now selling her work online, and that some of her photos are being displayed in a major area hospital.
It didn’t surprise me one bit, because her work is gorgeous.
But I was completely taken aback by this: she said she never would have done it had I not encouraged her.
To be honest, I didn’t even know I had.
Her message really struck me — that such a small act on my part could’ve had such an impact! It made me think about how much our words can influence each other, and how much a few heartfelt words can mean to someone who needs to hear them. (And we don’t always know who needs to hear them).
You did a good job.
That was a great idea.
You made a difference.
You can do it.
Don’t give up.
Sometimes the simplest words can carry a lot of weight.
Her note also made me think about my own encouragers. I’ve been working for a solid year on a novel. Some days I am full of confidence, and other times I don’t feel like my project is worthwhile to finish.
Every time I’ve hit that no-confidence zone, I have been fortunate to have a friend who has jerked me up by the collar and set me back on track. She has given me exactly the words I needed to keep going. She doesn’t know it, but I saved those messages and I go back and re-read them each time I get on the outs with my writing. She probably has no idea that her words are still working on me, months after she sent them, or that if (when!) I finish, she will be a big part of the reason why.
I can look back to fifth grade when a teacher encouraged me to audition for a school play, and eighth grade when another teacher encouraged me to participate in a public speaking contest, and I would list both of those events, without hesitation, as things that shaped me, changed my life. Those are just two examples, but there are so many more things I have attempted, improved upon, accomplished, all because someone encouraged me.
Encouragement is powerful, and it affects us all.
I’d never really thought about how important it was to be an encourager, though, until I got the message from my photographer friend. We think of encouragement as an effort, something larger and involved, but it can come in many forms — big and small, pointed and in passing. It can be a suggestion to try something new. It can be a pep talk. It can be a simple compliment.
The truth is, all I did was tell someone that her pictures were beautiful. It was so little and I did it without thinking, but as small as it was, it made a difference to her. And seeing that it made a difference has motivated me to do it more often. We all should.
When you can give a compliment, give it. When a friend needs motivation, offer it. When someone does a good job, tell them. It doesn’t have to be someone in your circle, you can give these things to anyone. Why not pass along a little positivity? There’s no telling how far it will go.
Let’s be encouragers.
That little morsel you offer might be exactly what somebody needs to keep going, try harder, push through. And you can’t put a price on that.