May I give you one more gift I have received?
Florence Littauer, in her book, Silver Boxes: The Gift of Encouragement, tells a story about her mother-in-law. She says she was alone with Mother Littauer and was just making conversation when she asked Mother Littauer, “What would you have been if you could have done anything?”
Her mother-in-law replied, “an opera singer.” Mother Littauer went on to say that her parents discouraged her by saying that studying opera was a waste of time. After all, she would not make much money. They encouraged her to marry and raise a family. And that she would find happiness in her family.
Florence Littauer said it was a few years later that Mother Littauer’s brilliant mind faded. Her memory left her and her ability to articulate ceased. When the family would visit her, she would sit silently, smiling pleasantly. Florence said, “To see this woman whom we remembered as dynamic and powerful sitting silently and staring beyond us gave us an eerie feeling.”
On one occasion Florence asked the nurse who cared for her mother-in-law, “Does Mother ever talk?” The nurse replied, “Oh no, she never says a word.” Florence reflected, “As we discussed the tragedy of a once brilliant mind gone dead, the nurse made an interesting comment, ‘It’s the strangest thing. She can’t talk, but every so often she sings opera.’”
The night before Mother Littauer died, she stood by her chair after dinner and began to sing. She put on a moving performance, and the nurse clapped in approval as Mother bowed and smiled. The next morning when the nurse went in, Mother was lying with her hands folded across her chest with a smile on her face. Mother Littauer had talent that was never developed, a music box that was never allowed to play, a career that was never begun.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote, “Many of us die with the music still in us.”
As I think about you reading this, I can imagine all the songs that have not been sung, the brokenness, hurt, fear that could be overcome with a little encouragement.
I can imagine the talents and careers that still can bloom with a little encouragement.
Maybe it’s time for you to sing your song. And, maybe your singing won’t even require musical talent.
When I read the biblical story and I look at the world in which we live, God has many reasons to yell at us. God has every right to say, “When you get your lives straighten out, when you begin to live the way you were created to live, I’ll help you. I’ll love you.”
But the story is that God sent us an encouraging word.
God sent the Word in the flesh. God’s encouraging word is Jesus. “God did not spare his own son but give him up for us all.” “While were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The story is that God sent prophets, priests, kings, and when the time was right, God sent us Jesus, God’s encouraging word to us.
God sent the Word to each of us. God also sent that word to the church, the Body of Jesus. We are an encouraging word of hope, love, care to our communities, our neighborhoods, and the world.
Is that why Paul wrote, “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.”? Ephesians 4:29 (Today’s English Version)
What is the song you are singing? What is the song you were meant to sing?
*Story adapted from “Silver Boxes: The Gift of Encouragement,” by Florence Littauer