During the summer of 1994, a friend told me she thought I had the spiritual gift of encouragement. She posted a little note by my bed. It said, “You are an encourager.” I remember exactly what it looked like–the handwriting, the color–and how it felt to have someone name something like that about me. My friend saw what I couldn’t see.
That single comment shaped the next 15 years of my life. I wasn’t just an average girl; I was a hope giver, a courage finder, and an inspiration provider. I wasn’t just a nobody. God wanted to use me to point others towards a beautiful future.
It took someone naming it to help me see it.
I had a student who told me that of all my weeks and weeks of teaching, the most memorable thing from my class was a single comment I wrote on one of his many essays.
In the margin of his paper, I wrote: “You sound like a great teacher right here.” He was overwhelmed that I named that in him, and he later wrote about his dreams for graduate school to become a teacher. As my husband and I discussed these turning point comments, he told me he remembered the exact words of a Scout leader who pointed out some unique gifts he saw in my husband. Those were turning point words.
Today, as I guide students through their memoir drafts, I realize that I’m not naming what I see enough. I wonder what I need to name in my children, in my friends, and in my students. I see this in you. Maybe God will use it to shape a life. Maybe those words will be a turning point for someone today.
Journal: Did someone speak “turning point words” to you when you were younger? Can you speak a “turning point word” to someone in your life today?
Thanks so much for this, Heather. You remind me that I spend far too much time looking for and pointing out what needs improvement – in student work, in my children, in my husband, in myself. For today, at least, I will try harder to name the good I see.
Powerful post, Heather. You are a gift – wrapped in beauty and wisdom. You really are. Love, Patricia
As Patricia says, this really is powerful stuff. And it works the other way around, too. I remember attending an afternoon seminar to uncover our spiritual gifts. All I got was a scowl and an admonition that I must have skewed my answers on purpose so that all of the gifts came out in the middle or lower, indicating that I don't have any clear gifts. It left me depressed and feeling like I had nothing to contribute (and obviously remnants of the the experience linger since the seminar was probably 20 years ago).
Keep sharing those comments that may just be turning points for those around you!
sounds like the friend that left the sticky note was an encourager too.
We don't always realize what effect the words we say may have on someone. Thanks for the reminder!
I like this concept – thank you for writing about it.
Heather, I've been following you for a while now and was so moved by this post that I had to comment. Really, my comment is not just on this piece, but on your blog as a whole – you have an unbelievable knack for distilling really profound feelings that, for the rest of us, often remain unspoken. I just loved this post and the reminder that every label we give, whether it is to ourselves, our children or those around us can be life-altering.