A couple of years ago I was walking through the parking lot at a Lowe’s in north Denver. There was a kid with Down’s syndrome working there collecting the carts as I was on my way in. I was having an ok day, not paying much attention and minding my own business, when he said something to me that I will never forget. Three words. I know that Lowe’s probably wants their employees to greet customers on their way into the store, but I was completely taken by surprise by the 3 words he chose. After the shock wore off, I felt a little embarrassed, a little flattered, but now was smiling, and what had only moments before been an ok day, had now become a great day that I will always remember.
Occasionally when I drive by one of the billboards posting the current lottery jackpots, I let myself imagine what it would be like to have that much money. I would be able to do so much good. I could help so many people and could give so much away to people who need it. But then I realized one day that I had been deceiving myself. I probably would not be the generous giver that I imagine myself to be.
I came to this conclusion one day recalling the story of the kid in the parking lot. Had he simply given me $3 that day instead of the 3 words, I would probably not even be able to tell you what I spent it on. I’d have nothing to show for it, and my life would not be any better off. So, those 3 words have more value than $3.
He gave me something of value. He gave me something that I didn’t deserve. He gave of himself to make my day better.
I have been stingy with my words. And if I cannot be generous with my speech, an endless supply that costs me nothing, why would I think that I would be more generous with a lot of money? I would like to use the crutch of being an introvert, but that is only an excuse, and the fact is that I have the ability to speak, the ability to give of myself, to make someone’s day better, but I don’t.
So let me encourage you, if you are anything like me, to come out of your shell and engage in the practice of using a few words to change someone’s day and maybe their life. Try saying something like, “you look great!”, “I appreciate you”, “thank you”, “I’m glad you’re my friend”, “you’re a great friend”, “I look up to you”, “great hair day!”, or “let’s have lunch”. And if you really want to change someone’s day, you can even use the 3 words spoken to me by the kid in the parking lot……”MOVIE STAR LOOK!”
As a Christian, we have something more valuable than words to offer others. We have salvation and the good news of Jesus Christ. The world needs to hear the words that we have, but we’ve been taught not to talk to strangers, that people that we don’t know should somehow be feared. The reality is that even the boogie man needs Jesus. As far as I can tell, “Strangers” are exactly who we’ve been instructed to talk to in Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations……”
So let’s see if we can make a difference with a few words. Like “come to church”, or “Jesus loves you”. Or you can use my Uncle Emmett’s favorite ice breaker “where are you from originally?” He was able to start many conversations which led to many bible studies which led to many conversions with those few words. Jesus made a big difference in the lives of Peter and Andrew when he simply said to them “Follow me”.
So let’s be generous with others in the words that we speak. Let’s give of ourselves. Otherwise they may forever remain strangers, not knowing the love of God.
(first delivered at Bear Valley church of Christ as a Wednesday devotional, 2/26/14).