The Power of Encouragement

by: Bill Bratt


Jean Thompson stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the first day of school in the fall and she told her students a lie. She looked at her pupils and told them that she loved them all the same, and that she would treat them all alike. And that was impossible because there in front of her, slumped in his seat on the third row, was a little boy named: Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed he didn't play well with the other children, his clothes were wrinkled and he constantly needed a bath.

It got to the point during the first few months that she would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, marking bold X's and marking the 'F' at the top of the paper biggest of all. Teddy was a sullen little boy, and nobody seemed to enjoy him.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's records and - because of things - she put Teddy's off until the last. But when she opened his file, she was in for a SURPRISE. His first-grade teacher had written: "Teddy is a bright, inquisitive child with a ready laugh. He does work neatly and has good manners.... he is a joy to be around." His second-grade teacher wrote: "Teddy is an excellent student and is well-liked by his classmates - but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."

His third-grade teacher recorded: "Teddy continues to work hard but his mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."

Teddy's fourth-grade teacher wrote: "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class. He is tardy and could become a problem."

By now Mrs. Thompson realized the problem, but Christmas was coming quickly. It was all she could do, with the school play and all, until the day before the holidays began and she was suddenly forced to focus on Teddy Stoddard on that last day before the Christmas break.

Her students brought her presents, all in gay ribbon and bright paper, except for Teddy's, which was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper of a scissored cut grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents and some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet, with some of the stones missing, and a bottle of cologne that was one quarter full. She stifled the laughter. Then she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and she dabbled some of the perfume behind the other wrist.

At the end of the day, as the other children joyously raced from the room, Teddy Stoddard stayed behind, just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my mom used to." As soon as Teddy left, Mrs. Thompson knelt at her desk and cried for a least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and spelling. Instead she began to teach children.

Jean Thompson paid particular attention to one they all called Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she ENCOURAGED him, the faster he responded and, on days that there would be an important test, Mrs. Thompson would remember the cologne that Teddy had given her. By the end of the year Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class. He had also become the "pet" of the teacher who had once vowed she loved of her students exactly the same. A year later she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that of all the teachers he'd had in elementary school, she was his favorite. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He wrote that as he finished high school, third in his class, and that she was still his favorite teacher. Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, that he'd stayed in school, and would graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson she was still his favorite teacher. Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. He told her that she was still his favorite teacher but that now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, "Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D."

The story doesn't end yet. There was another letter that spring. Teddy said that he had met a girl and was to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the pew usually reserved for the mother of the groom. From this story you can see how encouragement can affect other people. Mrs. Thompson's first impression was wrong about Teddy. Once she knew more about him she changed her attitude toward him. Her words and actions changed from discouragement to encouragement. That encouragement changed the life of a little boy named Teddy. It gave him a challenge, something to live for.

Webster's Dictionary defines "encouragement" as "the act of encouraging". "Encourage" is defined as: "to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope : hearten, to spur on : stimulate, to give help or patronage to : foster".


At Times We Need Encouragement

At times we all need encouragement. If you are feeling down, ask God for encouragement. Ask God to give you more of His Holy Spirit. Jesus was talking to His disciples and said: "I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever" (John 14:16 ).

The King James Version translates the word "Helper" as "Comforter".

Jesus continues in verse 26: "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you."

God will help and comfort us through His Holy Spirit. All we have to do is ask.

God is love and His mercy never ends. Once you have accepted Jesus as your savior, repented of your sins and are trying to live righteous lives and obeying God, one of the most encouraging things to know about God and Jesus is that they will never leave you or forsake you. The apostle Paul tells us in Hebrews 13:5 : "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you.""


We Must Give Encouragement

Letís notice that the apostle Paul admonishes us to comfort others: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, {4} who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ).

We are also to exhort one another: "but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today" (Hebrews 3:13 ).

How can we comfort and exhort others? By encouraging them.

Ask God to help you in saying the right things to encourage others. There is a beautiful proverb that says: "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver" (Proverbs 25:11 ).

Be positive, kind and loving when encouraging others! Proverbs 12:25 says: "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad"

Just a couple of words, even awkwardly phrased, can trigger new zeal and renew confidence in someone.

In Conclusion:

Jean Thompson's encouragement changed the life of Teddy Stoddard. Your encouragement can change the lives of people that you come in contact with. Encourage your family, friends and co-workers. Remember, there is power in encouragement.


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