I mentioned in a previous post that work has been bumming me out lately. Between the rude customers, and constant repetitive tasks, it's easy for me to slip into feeling like what I do doesn't really matter. And I'm pretty sure that no matter what you do, when you feel like it doesn't matter, you become discouraged.

But it doesn't seem like it's just me. In fact, as I've talked to other team members at the store, it seems everyone is feeling discouraged right now. I even suggested to one of the bosses that they give a pep talk during one of our evening staff huddles the other night.

All of this has got me thinking about the importance of encouragement. In a post from last November, I mentioned that it's a daily value in the company. But while encouragement is important all the time, it's especially important during times of despair. (And, yes. I realize "despair" might be hyperbole in this case.)

As an intern, we were trained to encourage people. We were tasked with making phone calls, sending emails, having face to face conversations, and sending hand written notes to volunteers on a regular basis. At the time, I kind of looked at this as a nuisance. But I recognized it as important. (Even if I didn't hold it as a value, I recognized it as valuable. Does that make sense?) And so, when I became a pastor, I carried it over with me.

What was a nuisance for me as an intern became one of my greatest tools as a pastor. I did my best to encourage my volunteers every chance I got (and I hope they felt that). Everything from emails, to cards, to texts, to giftcards, to taking them out for coffee. I wanted to show them that they were a valuable and important part of my ministry.

But most of the time, I had to expect encouragement to come to me in a different way.

Which is why what happened this week was so strange to me.

My manager at the store sent me a hand written note (pictured above) thanking me for doing such a great job.

I was totally surprised! Not only was it great to be recognized for doing a good job, but to be recognized by the manager (and in such a personal way) meant so much more!

This brought to mind some questions:

  • What can I learn from being "surprised" by being encouraged?
  • Does encouragement ever affect behavior? How does the frequency of the encouragement affect the effect on behavior?
  • Is the significance of the encouragement changed by the person giving it?

    I'm going to keep thinking on this. But in the meantime, leave me some wisdom you've learned about encouragement in the comments...
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