by Linda Post Bushkofsky
Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NRSV)
One fall, in the days leading up to the beginning of school, some moms in my community hatched a brilliant plan. Most children walk to the neighborhood elementary school, so the moms encouraged residents to #chalkthewalk. What’s that? Residents were invited to write words of encouragement on the sidewalks children would be walking for the first day of school. I loved the idea and dug out my sidewalk chalk, ready to participate.
The night before the first day of school, I drew on four sidewalk squares in front of our house. I drew a smiley face on one square. A reminder to “help all,” encased in a heart, adorned one square. On another square I wrote “be kind’ and surrounded the words with multi-colored stick figures standing hand in hand. The final square simply exclaimed, “spread joy!” That more I stood by an open window, watching the kids walk to school. What fun it was to hear the kids and their parents react to my chalk drawings.
An hour or two later, another thought struck me. Why not add to the sidewalk drawings with encouraging words they would see when walking home after school? I happened to be working at home that day, so I took a quick break after lunch and added new messages. “You did it!” celebrated one square. “Who made you laugh today?” asked the words in another square. And finally, “who did you help today?”
I returned to that open window as school ended. Moms walking past to pick up their students squealed with delight. “How cool is that?” One mom and her kindergartener stopped to read each square, reading and answering each question. Two kids on our block wanted their picture taken with the drawings.
A little bit of time to reflect, a quick look through a few Pinterest boards, and some chalk. That’s all it took to offer encouragement to students and parents who walked by our home. That got me thinking. What kind of encouragement can we offer one another? What kind of encouragement can we give ourselves?
You’ve probably seen page-a-day calendars that offer a daily dose of encouragement. That’s one way. The screen saver on my personal computer consists of inspiring memes I’ve accumulated. I know a friend who writes encouraging words in a journal that she regularly returns to. Sending words of encouragement—yes, using a card and postage stamp—is a sure sign of caring. Encourage yourself by learning to say “no” and avoiding overscheduling your days.
Holding one another in prayer is another form of encouragement, just as supporting one another by showing up for meetings is another form of encouragement. I can’t begin to describe the encouragement I receive when women in our organization tell me they are praying for me daily, so offer prayers for others. A year’s worth of encouragement can come by giving a friend a subscription to Gather magazine. What are some other ways you can encourage your friends and yourself?
Don’t stop with just the women in your congregational unit. Spread encouragement to all you meet. In doing so, you’ll be blessed.
A version of this blog, written by Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director, was first published in the January/February 2020 issue of Gather magazine.