I recently received a handwritten letter—when’s the last time you have seen one of those?—from an appreciative chaplain who had read a devotional I wrote earlier this year. That article had been published in a magazine with a readership of over 100,000, which leads me to believe that others probably appreciated it as well but just didn’t write to me about it. Most people don’t, and I never expect them to.
Which made this one so heartwarming. As in, real warm feelings flushing through my veins, warm fuzzies floating all around me. Cue the “Awwww!” sound. How humbling that someone took time to write out a two-page letter—during a cross-country move, I learned—just to say thanks and let me know how my words impacted his life. This one is going in my “rock pile file”—the folder where I keep mementos of encouragement (a reference to the Old Testament rock piles that marked special events in the history of Israel).
Have you ever received such an encouragement? Even better, have you ever sent such a note? Emails, cards, and handwritten letters are tangible proofs that you have made a positive difference in someone’s life. And when written by you, they show others that you appreciate the good they have done in your life.
Tis the season for thanksgiving. I enjoy reading Facebook posts from friends who count down 30 days of thankfulness, often naming specific people and why they are thankful for them. Public affirmation can be a source of true encouragement: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).
The apostle Paul is an excellent role model in the area of giving thanks, of showing appreciation for others. He began or ended most of his letters to the churches with specific commendations and gratitude to people who had helped him:
- Romans 16:1, 3–4 “I commend to you our sister Phoebe . . . Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.”
- 1 Corinthians 16:17–18 “I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus . . . for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.”
- Philippians The entire letter is an ode of thanksgiving to that church for its partnership in the gospel mission with Paul.
- Colossians 4:7–8 “Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts. . . ”
- 1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- 2 Thessalonians 1:3–4 “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.”
So how can you get on the thankful train? All it takes are words, and perhaps a few gestures.
Write a note: With a pen, preferably, on paper or in a card that goes into an envelope with a stamp on it. Handwritten words are among the most meaningful. Don’t worry about knowing the margin rules. Just make it legible and heartfelt.
Email: Sometimes the stamps aren’t available, but the computer is. What’s important is writing out your thoughts and getting them to that person.
Social media: Photos, memes, “Days of Thankfulness” posts … get creative with your public affirmation. Don’t out anyone’s secrets, but show your love and appreciation in a way that will bless the recipient.
Face-to-face: The spoken word has power for good and for evil. In this case, telling someone in person—even better, with witnesses—why you are grateful for him or her can have lasting impact on your relationship and on the person’s long-term future. “I love you and I am thankful for you because . . .” can reverberate in a person’s memory for a lifetime. Who can you bless with words like that today?
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). I’m inspired by the letter I received to make someone else feel appreciated through my words. Who is that person in your life? Grab a pen, and add another stone of encouragement to someone’s rock pile.