Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

The heart’s own gift

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Painted Desert

Painting: 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!” China3.2009 197

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 they were empowering.

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

And an especially good reason to cultivate encouragement is that its opposite, discouragement, tends to breed complaint and criticism like weeds. Falling prey to these, which do nothing to draw us near to God, or goodness, is all too easy, leads nowhere new, and feels bad.

But surprisingly, practicing encouragement instead doesn’t require much more effort, other than willingly letting go. IMG_6181

Then there’s the surprise bonus in choosing encouragement, both for others and our own selves. Live long enough and you get to see how offering sincere encouragement to others turns out to be like giving it to yourself at the same time.

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

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



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