When Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre, doctors attending him found something interesting in the dying president’s pockets. Along with the expected pair of glasses, the handkerchief, the pen knife, and $5 (Confederate) bill … there was also an old, worn out newspaper clipping.
The clipping was a review of a speech the president had given, calling him “one of the greatest men of all time.” It was obvious, Lincoln had been carrying this compliment with him for quite a while.
Though Lincoln’s greatness may be of no surprise to us today, in 1865 millions shared a different view of him. In his day, honest Abe had fierce critics! Some considered him a country bumpkin and ridiculed his homely looks and unbecoming speaking voice. Still others held him responsible for bringing the country into the Civil War. In fact, most of his own political party despised him.
So in retrospect, it’s perhaps no wonder that even the legendary Abraham Lincoln carried his old newspaper clipping with him. He may have pulled it out every now and again to read and reassure himself when he was under fire and feeling insecure. Even great people need words of encouragement and praise.
As human beings, we all depend on kind and affirming words to help us feel good about ourselves. For every one word of criticism, it is said, we need nine more words of encouragement to keep us confident and secure in ourselves!
However, too often we make the incorrect assumption that other people already know the appreciation and admiration we have for them. Too often we fail to say what others need and deserve to hear. It’s true with our families, our friends, our co-workers, and our leaders. Instead, we wait to say nice things about people at the funeral home when they are dead and gone and can no longer hear, and we buy flowers for people when they can no longer smell them.
In his letters to the churches he founded, the Apostle Paul did such a great job of encouraging and affirming so many of those early Christians. He set a standard of appreciation and praise. (Romans 1:8-12, I Corinthians 1:4-9, Ephesians 1:15-17, etc.) Wouldn’t it be great if you and I used the coming Lenten season to be intentional about doing the same?
Several years ago, a friend gave me the idea of dropping a note of appreciation to a different person on each of the 40 days of Lent. I’ve done it most years now, and it really feels good to know friends, family, acquaintances, and even some strangers will know that someone has benefited from their kindness, compassion, wisdom, leadership and generosity. I sometimes wonder if any of these people will ever carry these worn out notes in their pockets with them like Lincoln did.
How about it? Why not think about using the 40 days of this coming Lenten season to say the things you’ve always wanted to say to the people you’ve always appreciated and admired. It just may make a huge difference in someone’s life.
Don’t wait until it’s too late!