Inside: In a time when once-simple things have become so complex, let a four-year-old remind you how easy (and important) it can be to encourage others.
I’m just going to say it right now. Encouragement is not my gifting. It doesn’t come naturally to me, especially not expressing it in deliberate and tangible ways. So God gave me encouragement and joy personified in my four-year-old Bear.
Get inspired by the small things
Somewhere in his short life, Bear learned how to write all of the letters of the alphabet by himself. I didn’t teach him, so I have absolutely no idea where this came from. (I’ll admit my older son learned most of his colors and shapes from Blippi, but how the younger one learned anything is beyond me.)
Lately, he’s been putting this skill to use in a beautiful way. My aunt gave him a spiral notebook a few months ago, and ever since then he has been writing letters to people. I love how her small gift has inspired him to write to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and his best friend from school.
He loves letter writing so much that I even let him choose a penpal. I recently showed him some pictures of folks at an assisted living facility who were looking for penpals. Each resident held a sign with their name on it and something they were interested in. Of course, he picked the resident who liked ice cream.
Delight in joy
I asked him why he likes to write letters to people, and he said it makes him happy to make other people happy. It really is that simple.
I don’t even ask or remind him. Often it just happens when something makes him think of someone, and the next thing I know, he’s pulling out his notebook, pencil, and stickers. “Mommy, I want to write a letter. Can you help me?”
His letters are simple. He decides what he wants to write, and I tell him how to spell the words. It’s usually only a few lines, because that’s about the limit of his attention and writing energy. They consist of a combination of two to three of the following:
- I miss you.
- I love you.
- Hope we can play together again soon!
- You are so beautiful.
- I love your heart.
- My favorite ice cream is chocolate and vanilla with sprinkles and Sour Patch Kids and gummy worms.
And he always closes with a sincere “Love, B.”
Although he loves to get letters in return, that’s not why he writes. His little four-year-old heart has found a very simple, tangible way to bring joy to just about anyone, and he loves to do it.
Don’t wait until it’s perfect
He works hard at his letters, but he doesn’t worry about accidentally writing a letter the wrong way. He knows he can’t quite get that tricky S to stand up. But that doesn’t stop him from writing it.
Instead of focusing on perfection, he focuses on the person. He compliments them in ways he knows they will appreciate. He adds his finishing touch–a handful of Thomas the Train stickers–and if he knows the person’s favorite colors, usually he will pick out stickers with those colors. He picks a colored envelope, and I let him put the stamp on it. We take it to the mailbox and drop it in, and he grins and giggles because he knows someone will love the letter he just sent.
That’s how simple it can be to bring someone joy.
What can we learn from BEAR?
In a time when social distancing is encouraged, personal interaction is greatly limited, and everyone needs a little extra joy, this boy has found his way. And I’ve learned a lot from watching him shine.
Bear lets the small things inspire him. He decides to bless someone, and he does it. He doesn’t wait for them to make the first move or wait until he can do it perfectly. And he expects nothing back.
What can we do today to intentionally encourage someone and expect nothing back? Maybe it is putting a pen to paper and sending an actual letter to someone, complete with little details that show that you know them (like a pink Rosie the Train sticker for someone who loves pink).
Whatever you choose, remember it doesn’t have to be perfect. You can send it off and be satisfied knowing that it may brighten someone’s day. And though they may tell you about it, you also may never know how it made them feel. But you will know you reached out in love simply for the sake of blessing someone. And that’s pretty great.
As for me, I wish I could land this right in your mailbox, but your screen will have to do:
You are beautiful. I love your heart. Love, J.
What a beautiful heart Bear has! You have taught him well, mom.
Thank you! But it really is the heart God gave him. I just tell him how to spell. Our running saying is, “Everyone needs a Bear in their life!”