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The Power of an Encouraging Word

In 1872 Dr. Brewster Higley wrote a poem entitled The Western Home, and the following year it was set to music to become the famous American folksong Home on the Range. It was written about his beloved state of Kansas. Most of you have probably heard the words to the chorus: “Home, home on the range where the deer and the antelope play.  Where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.”

Sounds like a pretty awesome place to live, doesn’t it?

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Of course, a place like this doesn’t exist – at least not in this world. Discouraging words come to us at any given time from our family and friends, from students and teachers, from the news media and social media, from our bosses and our co-workers, even strangers.  You might say we live in a place ‘where seldom is heard an encouraging word and the skies are just cloudy all day.’

Today I learned the power of an encouraging word, and it was through an unlikely source – a 16 year old boy.

I work in school administration and my office is just next door to the guidance counselor.  She was out this afternoon and a young man walked in with a piece of paper in his hand. He headed towards the counselor’s door, noticed she wasn’t in and stuck his head in my office. I was just about to cut off his comments with “the counselor isn’t in” when he waved his piece of paper in front of me and said rather excitedly, “Take a look at this!” It was an Algebra II test with a grade of 103 marked in red at the top of the page – a perfect 100 with 3 bonus points. That’s when I realized this young man was looking for someone to share his good news with –  he was hoping for an encouraging word.  I called him by name and told him how wonderful his score was.  He gave me a big grin and said, “Yeah, this is going on the refrigerator!” I grinned back and said, ‘Yes, that’s exactly where it belongs.”  I told him how proud I was of him and to keep up the good work. As he walked out, his step seemed lighter and he said, “Yes, ma’am!” – kind of like someone in the military would say it. I imagine that he whistled as he floated down the hall.

Yes, I had encouraged this young man with my remarks, but I wasn’t prepared for how I felt.  I was exhilarated. My step was lighter and I was happy the rest of the day. I experienced a Home on the Range moment and I liked it!

After this encounter I realized something about myself:  I don’t give encouraging words nearly enough. Most of the time, I’m scolding kids in the hallway or lecturing a student who didn’t turn in something on time.  With my family, I am quick to be negative, slow to be positive. Today I made a silent determination in my heart to be more encouraging, to speak words that are uplifting instead of discouraging.

You may wonder what encouraging words have to do with being healthy. It has everything to do with it. Everyone needs encouragement. It’s in our DNA. Recently people have noticed that I’ve lost weight (19 pounds to be exact) and their encouraging words of “I can tell you’ve lost weight” or “you’re looking good” have really made my day.  It motivates me to stay on course with my I want to be healthy lifestyle.  There’s probably research on it somewhere, but I believe that positive, encouraging words must have a profound physiological affect on our brains.  I know they do on our emotional well-being. Words have the power to hurt or heal. I want my words to heal.

We all want encouraging words spoken to us. Let’s do the same to others.

Have you experienced the power of an encouraging word? I’d love for you to comment.

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today. Hebrews 3:13a

Healthy, wealthy and wise tips

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”Benjamin Franklin, from the 1735 edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack

Healthy tip for today (for your body): Do you feel tired, sluggish, experience brain fog or have frequent headaches? If so, you probably aren’t drinking enough water.  Since your body is about 60% water it is important to stay properly hydrated. Make sure to drink at least 8 – 10, 8 oz glasses of water a day.  Once I started properly hydrating, my headaches disappeared and my energy increased.

Wealthy tip for today (enrichment for your soul): Speak a word of encouragement to someone today. It will benefit you and them. “Paul called the disciples together and encouraged them to keep up the good work in Ephesus. Then, saying his good-byes, he left for Macedonia. Traveling through the country, passing from one gathering to another, he gave constant encouragement, lifting their spirits and charging them with fresh hope.” Acts 20:1-2

Wise tip for today (for the brain):  Give your brain a boost with blueberries (don’t you love the alliterative sound of that). According to the article Your Brain on Blueberries by Mary Franz, “Emerging research suggests that compounds in blueberries known as flavonoids may improve memory, learning and general cognitive function, including reasoning skills, decision making, verbal comprehension and numerical ability. In addition, studies comparing dietary habits with cognitive function in adults hint that consuming flavonoids may help slow the decline in mental facility that is often seen with aging and might even provide protection against disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.” Try a handful as a snack or add some to your oatmeal, cereal or salads.  Your brain will thank you!

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