David O. Taylor, whose Diary of an Arts Pastor is one of my regular stops on the blogosphere, is posting (in parts) a talk he gave recently about The Art of Encouragement: Part 1 and Part 2. This is really good. I know from my own experience how powerful a few words of encouragement can be. More than 10 years ago, while I was in grad school, I met a professor whose name really should have been Barnabas, because he has the gift of encouragement. His real name is John Neibergall. For one thing, it was so neat to study under a Christian professor, but he was also an excellent teacher. I was in his Newspaper Management class and he gave us an opportunity to write some profiles for a project he was working on with the National Newspaper Association. He made it clear our stories would be held to a high standard and wouldn't be used if they didn't measure up. So I did the interviews and wrote my stories (about a weekly newspaper in Minnesota) and waited to see what Mr. Neibergall would say.
Not only did I get a good grade on the project, but he wanted to use my stories in the Showcase of Excellence (the project with NNA). But what mattered the most to me was what he told me when he returned my stories to me with the good news. He told me he had been a little skeptical about what I could do with the assignment since I had very limited journalism experience -- he had nothing really to go on. But he was very pleased with the job I had done and said he might be interested in hiring me as a graduate assistant at a later time. (I did get to work for him that summer, and later got to edit future issues of the Showcase of Excellence.) I think I floated for several days on that encouragement. It really boosted my confidence in my ability to tackle a writing assignment and produce something worth reading.
My experience with Mr. Neibergall was not unusual -- many of his students can tell similar stories. And I believe his words had a lasting effect on me because it reinforced for me how important encouragement can be. Have you been encouraged by someone? Have you been an encouragement? You may never know what kind of difference it can make in a person's life.