I’ve always tried to grow vegetables and plant attractive flowers wherever we have lived. I enjoyed seeing things grow, even if it meant weeding, watering and getting my fingers dirty.
But now we’re in an apartment with no balcony.
Instead of picking our own flowers, we saunter up and down the streets around where we live enjoying what the town has done to beautify its streets and parks. And we delight in the gardens of home owners.
This change in our lifestyle has reminded me that we should express appreciation for what others do. This is especially so when their efforts increase our enjoyment or show hard work or ability. When I grew prize tomatoes or planted an attractive flower garden, I took pride in it. Feeling a sense of satisfaction and joy in what one does is certainly not wrong. But when others commended my efforts, I felt affirmed and even motivated to do better.
It is easy to take others for granted; after all, don’t they get paid for what they do? A server at a restaurant. A clerk in a store or bank. A repairman fixing an oven. A doctor or nurse. A town employee weeding a garden. An artist. A pastor.
My wife, Mary Helen, has taught me to view that approach with a jaundiced eye. She almost invariably encourages those she meets; commending them for the tasks they do. Recently I’ve heard her say to a server, “You’re good at your job. You deserve a raise.” I could give many examples.
I’m gradually learning from her! So if I see a home-owner working in her garden, I commend her about how attractive it looks. When a store clerk helps me find a product I usually express my appreciation. When a car waits while we cross the road, I wave my thanks. I often go up to a pastor after his sermon to encourage him. It’s only taken me 50 years to learn the value of words of affirmation and encouragement. And I still forget too often.
Didn’t Jesus say we could expect, “Well done, you good and faithful servant,” for hard work in His service. (Matt. 25:21) The writer of Hebrews urges us; “Encourage one another daily” (Heb. 3:13). Note the daily, not rarely.
Words of encouragement and affirmation serve to lighten people’s loads and improve their performance.
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