Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

The gift we’re glad to see returned


Palm Canyon Trail

Painting: “Palm Canyon Trail” by Judy Hughey Wright.

I once heard someone describe how, while traveling on a bus in Africa, where many roads look like something Americans would reserve for all-terrain vehicles, he’d had an unexpected encounter with the power of encouragement.

As the driver navigated the deeply rutted road, the passengers would repeatedly, and with great enthusiasm, cry out a phrase that sounded like “ay-kushay.” As the American man watched more carefully, he realized that this was a kind of cheer they made each time the driver successfully avoided a pothole.

His story brought to mind the friends I made when I lived in China. Seldom have I seen people work as hard, or live with so little. In addition to showing a generally uncomplaining and positive attitude, they demonstrated something whose effectiveness finally makes sense to me. As they’d wave me on my way, they’d unfailingly call out, “Do your best,” “Take your time” or “Enjoy yourself!”

It wasn’t until I got back to the United States and no longer heard these things that I realized how much I’d appreciated such sources of encouragement. They had a lovely sound to my ears — and my heart. And they were empowering.


Painting: “Parched,” by Judy Hughey Wright.

To “encourage” each other, meaning literally “to give heart”, is one of the most timelessly beautiful gifts we can share. Perhaps the very scarcity of encouragement in daily life is what has so many feeling weary, fearful, and uninspired. Parched, even.

Another good reason to cultivate encouragement is that its opposite, discouragement, tends to breed complaint and criticism like weeds. Falling prey to these leads nowhere new, and feels bad.

But surprisingly, practicing encouragement instead doesn’t require much more effort, other than willingly letting go.

Then there’s that surprise bonus of choosing encouragement and offering it freely: it mysteriously begins to feel like receiving it yourself, at the same time.

I love just when divine wisdom maximizes things in that very generous way.



Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details



5 thoughts on “The gift we’re glad to see returned

  1. Reblogged this on matthewbahai and commented:
    It is a lovely day, the sun shines brightly upon the earth, giving light and warmth to all creatures. The Sun of Truth is also shining, giving light and warmth  31  to the souls of men. The sun is the life-giver to the physical bodies of all creatures upon earth; without its warmth their growth would be stunted, their development would be arrested, they would decay and die. Even so do the souls of men need the Sun of Truth to shed its rays upon their souls, to develop them, to educate and encourage them. As the sun is to the body of a man so is the Sun of Truth to his soul

    (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 30)

  2. Thanks very much, Matthew, and for including the lovely quote, too.

  3. This is great! What an inspiration AND a reminder to be encouraging, nurturing, positive. It costs nothing and gives so much.

  4. Thank you Phyllis for this writing and for all the times you have uplifted and encouraged me on my
    personal journey. We are blessed when encouraged, we are also blessed when we encourage.

  5. Perfect timing! This is just what I needed to read and ponder today. Thank you for your words that always inspire and encourage, Phyllis.

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