Reality Check: The Effect of Small Encouragements

Vera is a seasoned citizen, and like every other grown-up, she’s becoming more seasoned by the day! Because she wants this phase of her life be as positive and productive as possible, she’s adopted various practices. Her plan is to do what she can to reduce the downsides and enhance the upsides of growing older.
I suspect that we all know what activities help and what hinders healthy aging. But knowing is not the same as doing, is it? Vera is keen on doing.
Among her practices are regular walks around the neighbourhood. Sometimes she’s alone; other times she’s accompanied by the dog or a human friend. Regardless, she makes her trek—admiring the trees and flowers, enjoying the sounds of the birds, the weather (whatever it is) and the joy of movement. She waves hello to neighbours and chats with folks who wish to chat.
It’s a wonderful habit. The feedback from her body (sometimes achy but positive all in all); the interaction with people, and the connection with nature that comes from being outside can be helpful for any of us.
An additional benefit is that Vera has become acquainted with many of the people who live along her route. While not close friendships, it’s still nice to recognize people, to know their names, where they live, even to know their dogs and cats.
One morning as Vera was passing by, Sylvia emerged from her garden to say, “Vera, I wanted to let you know how impressed I am by your walking. My husband and I were watching you the other day, and he mentioned it too…”
What effect do you think that had on Vera? She was delighted, of course. It’s a powerful thing to be unexpectedly recognized for something when we had no expectation that anyone notices or cares. The effect is that Vera is now even more motivated, more purposeful, more determined, and more connected to her neighbourhood.
How long do you think that conversation took? Perhaps two minutes, tops? How long do you think the effect of that conversation will last? Maybe not forever, but definitely far, far longer than the conversation itself. The rest of the day, the week, maybe even the year seems somehow brighter.
By now you may be thinking, “Gosh, I wish people would pop out the blue and encourage me like that!” That’s a perfectly understandable wish. However, even though it could make everyone’s life better and happier, we can’t make other people do those joyful, helpful things—like encourage us—can we?
What we can do—what we do have within our power—is the ability to recognize and encourage others. Vera’s incident is a lovely demonstration that it doesn’t necessarily require a huge effort to make a positive difference in someone’s life.
If you have the perception that “making a difference” requires changing the world, perhaps this incident will shine a new light on what it takes to build a better society.
An interaction such as this likely won’t result in a huge life-changing outcome for either Vera or Sylvia. Then again, it may. We never know exactly what’s going on in someone else’s life at any time. You never know…your encouragement could be arriving at exactly the moment it’s needed to help someone change their mindset from despair to a more optimistic outlook.
Thus, don’t discount the value of small, heartfelt encouragements. Each one will touch someone’s life in a positive way. Enough of them could make a real difference in the larger picture.
I want to thank “Vera” for telling me about this incident and for giving me permission to share it with you.
Have you received encouragement, even small encouragements? Have they ever come at a time in your life when they made a difference? Do you give encouragement to others? If so, how do you do that?

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