“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” Philemon 1:7
Jackie Kennedy Onassis was known for her beauty, poise and elegance and is considered a classic style icon, much like Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel. But what stands out most about Jackie is her renown for writing the perfect thank you note. Her correspondence was so effective that it notably inspired French President Charles DeGaulle, moved Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan, and comforted Kathleen Graham after the suicide of her husband.
Jackie sent thank you notes to practically everyone. According to the website Vivant, “When President Kennedy was killed, a legion of mourners sent flowers and letters to the First Lady expressing their condolences. In return, many got back a small thank you card with Jackie’s signature at the bottom. She was also famous for writing thank you notes to people that had helped her, including the staff at Bergdorf Goodman, to express her appreciation.” She always started her correspondence with something personal; expressing what may have been special about an event, gift, or relationship. She gave the gift of encouragement.
When we encourage people, we come beside them in some way, offering words of comfort, recognition, applause, instruction and even admonishment. As believers we can go directly to God for comfort when we go through difficult times. We experience firsthand “the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles” (II Corinthians 1:4) and having received the refreshment of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we have the ability to help and refresh others.
Of course, our ways of communicating have taken on different forms these days, with the advent of Facebook, Twitter and other media. They are all useful tools, but they should never replace the personal touch. We can have a greater impact on others when we thoughtfully consider what would help that person most. It might be lending a listening ear over coffee, praying for with them in moments of grief, or serving them in some way – by bringing a meal, doing their laundry, watching their kids or taking them out to dinner to celebrate.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t seem to be the brilliant advice people gave us which gets us through. It’s their encouragement. It’s their willingness to stand with us when times are hard, their expressions of love and support, and the message they send with their actions, not just their words, saying “I value you and I am always here for you.”
When people look back over the decades of their lives, they remember their encouragers and count them among their treasures. Anyone can give the gift of encouragement and everyone should. It’s the stuff that love thy neighbor is made of. And when you give this gift, you’ll be encouraged yourself.
© 2013 Renee Dallas For Newport Mesa Women Fall GIFT Series