In church today, Pastor Dale closed with a story about how he went to Best Buy, got excellent service, and made sure to tell the worker's boss what an awesome job he did. Dale talked about how easy it is for us to brighten someone's day and make a big difference by doing something as easy as complimenting someone with a random act of kindness. His story of life-giving words brought up something I've really been mulling over this week. I've been thinking about how easy it is for people in our society to speak up quickly when someone has done something wrong. If our food was served cold, if the phone company didn't give us what we wanted, if someone's not doing a "good enough" job from our point of view, if someone shouldn't have cut us off on the freeway, or to hit a little closer to home in my world, if a teacher isn't doing enough to help your particular child, then we'll give a piece of our mind very quickly. It's not to say those things shouldn't be spoken up over, though I think we should be wise in our approach to such matters as Jesus would have done with his careful words spoken in love. But think about how often we speak up about things we don't like compared to how often we speak up about things we do like. When was the last time you told that random stranger you liked her shoes. When was the last time you told the waitress to bring her boss over so you could compliment her efficiency? When was the last time you encouraged your child's teacher by sharing something your child did as a result of their teaching?
I remember my first year of teaching was plagued with doubts and uncertainties. There was a constant voice in my head telling me that I wasn't cut out for this profession. The instances that came up when parents were unhappy with what I was doing and spoke to my boss or to other teachers or to their children in a negative way, still are so fresh in my mind. The sting hasn't gone away. But there are also the instances of being given encouragement from people who saw the work I was putting into it, and spoke life over me--telling me I was an amazing teacher, telling me my students were lucky to have me, validating what I was doing, giving me a much-needed hug or shoulder to cry on, etc. Those positives still to this day carry me through the tough times when I feel like a horrible teacher.
This has been on my mind this week especially because I received an email from a parent of a former student who moved away and is now in public school. She took 5 minutes out of her day just to tell me how well he's doing, how far ahead he is in his class, and how he's getting an award next week because of his academic excellence. She said she knew his achievements were a direct result of my teaching and wanted to tell me thank you. Tears came to my eyes the minute I read her message. It was incredible to me how powerful those words were, and I thought about how often I hear that kind of praise compared to how often I hear, "you're not challenging my child enough" and "I don't agree with how you're handling that." It changed my whole entire day. It validated all the hours of work l've poured into my students. It told me that I am only one person, but I am making a lasting impact on someone's life. It told me I am in the right profession. It told me that what I'm doing works. It told me I matter.
After hearing Pastor Dale mention the same thing this morning, here is the question that has lingered with me and that I want to pose to you: what would happen if we as the body of Christ were known for being people who jumped to compliment people and tell them what they're doing well rather than jumped to criticize or question people? What would the world look like? How would people's perspective on Christians change? I personally think there would be a whole lot more appreciation than judgement going around. Instead of just thinking a positive thought about someone today, try saying it out loud.