Fourteen. 

Judi went to the preschool where she’d enrolled her son, with the intention of withdrawing his enrolment because of his recent autism diagnosis. She promptly changed her mind about the withdrawing part when the head teacher kindly responded to her with the words, ‘we are here for all children’.

Rowena was struggling in all sorts of ways at her old school and at an interview for a new school the Principal looked her squarely in the eyes and said ‘you have potential and I see it in you’.

Patti, as a young Mama and new believer was facing quite the lifestyle change. She recalls with amazing fondness being told ‘you are good enough, just as you are’.

Julie lost her Mum very unexpectedly, in extremely hard circumstances. To this day, she claims that the kindest words ever spoken to her have been the words, ‘it will get worse before it gets better’.

Anna grew up as a bit of an underachiever, in an underachieving family, and when she came to have her own family, some of her very real fears were around the thought that her own children wouldn’t ever find their passions and would settle for less than mediocre. She doesn’t fear that anymore after having her two children singled out in their school assembly and having some of their amazing achievements highlighted and brought attention to. That was the kindest and most meaningful thing that could ever happen to her.

Shelley was about to get engaged to someone who was not going to be God’s best for her, when her roommate pulled her aside and really questioned her and put words to her concerns about that relationship. Shelley will forever be grateful for those words, hard words but spoken in kindness, with kindness.

Shelley, Anna, Julie, Patti, Rowena and Judi. These are not random, far off people, in situations remote from us. Rather, these are all friends of mine, known and loved by me, who shared with me the times in their lives where kind words have impacted them the very most. And the thing that stands out to me, is that could well have been me, and maybe you, in many of those situations.

I counted up the number of verbal interactions that I had in just one average, nothing out of the ordinary day. I got to fourteen blocks of conversations. Fourteen different times of engaging with people in conversation on some level.

My friend Jenna, thoughtful Jenna, reckons she receives and remembers kindness when she’s at her weakest. That the kindest of words are those beautiful words given generously in the midst of a dark or difficult moment.

How many of these fourteen blocks of interactions of mine on that day, or on any given day, could have been kinder? How open were my ears and eyes to the signs that those I was engaged in conversation with, may have needed a spot of encouragement, a reassurance or a shoulder to lean on?  There are hurting people everywhere. We’re all walking wounded in some way.

We always, always, always remember the best, the most honouring and encouraging words spoken to us. We also remember the very worst of conversations. The condescending. The hurtful and disparaging.

An average of fourteen blocks of conversation a day. That’s a lot of opportunity for hope-filled, life-giving, ‘seeing the best in you’ words. Spoken by me. Given as a gift that is easily given, if I just remember and hold dear the reality of the impact these words could have. Just like the kind, kind words spoken to my friends, that are forever branded in their hearts, secured in their souls.

Collossians 4:6  Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. 

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