“That breath of life you have given me I am breathing into her. Thank you for carrying me. You have made me stronger!” wrote the re-forming fragments of a crushed and broken heart. Piece by piece it had been ripped away, as the ones she loved were taken, leaving her weak, depressed, and empty all the time. I grew my heart a little bigger, gave her some to fill the spaces, then started cradling her within my love each day.
The words my old friend wrote to me, about the breath of life I gave her, in a thread on Messenger the other day; got me thinkin’, back behind the tears, of the value of encouragement — and what a difference we can make and never know. I always try to love and care, and hardly ever think about it, because this is how my heart has always been. But what would happen if I didn’t do it? Would it really make a difference? It’s this answer that got me questioning it all! “Yes!” It really makes a difference — and they might not tell us — so we need to do it every chance we get — because we can! It will help us too. “Love cures people – both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.” — Karl Menninger
And when she said she took the breath and “breathed it into her,” she meant that she passed it on to another — a Mom who lost her son — addiction stole his life. She had the strength to help another bear her pain. So the love we share not only helps the people that we care for, but through its ripples helps the others in their lives.
We’ve all seen the inspirational Disney or Hallmark movies like “Pay It Forward,” read heart-warming stories like “Anne of Green Gables,” or heard about selfless sorts like Mother Teresa but do we remain mindful of these things on a day-to-day basis? Do we think about how a kind or encouraging word, or a caring gesture might foster hope — or give someone the strength to carry on? We can really make a difference with our love. Love is everything. Whether they ever tell us or not, our caring words can lift them up, strengthen them, and even save their lives. So always take that moment to make the difference you may never know you made. It may be the breath that gives them strength to take their own.
Old news? You bet! But its importance can at times become forgotten.
The Power of Love
In this post, love refers to non-romantic expressions of caring and encouragement. By caring, I mean “to look after and provide for the needs of someone” and by encouragement “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.”
While poking around on the web in search of some support for my topic — as positions sometimes need support as well — I was bombarded by an avalanche of heavily religious content. So, although I’ll probably be referencing various religious sources, my use of their content in no way suggests or implies endorsement of or affiliation with their organizations. In fact, here comes one now — a quote from Bryant S. Hinkley — that I first read in the best seller “First Things First” written by the acclaimed author Steven Covey (who also wrote “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” ). Apparently this quote originated from a speech delivered by Mr. Hinkley at Brigham Young University. I love these words, and have always found them inspiring! I hope you like them too.
“Service is the virtue that distinguished the great of all times and which they will be remembered by. It places a mark if nobility upon its disciples. It is the dividing line which separates the two great groups of the world—those who help and those who hinder, those who lift and those who lean, those who contribute and those who only consume. How much better it is to give than to receive. Service in any form is comely and beautiful. To give encouragement, to impart sympathy, to show interest, to banish fear, to build self confidence and awaken hope in the hearts if others, in short—to love them and to show it—is to render the most precious service.”
Ellen McGrath, in “The Power of Love,” says “Love is as critical for your mind and body as oxygen.” She goes on to say “Love is probably the best antidepressant there is.” In “The Power of Love,” Mary Paleologos shares “There is no greater power than love! Love is pure and decent, innocent and true. It has the capacity to heal old wounds and cleanse you of any negativity that does not serve you.” In “Power of Love,” Rohini Jha poetically imparts “Love does not believe in demanding but it feels joy in giving.” She says “Love provides us with enormous strength. Understanding and compassion are the healing powers of love. Love is in giving and must be creative. When Falguni Devi, the wife of Dasrath Manjhi, a poor laborer in a village in India, died in need of medical help, her husband vowed to move the mountain that had brought that ill-fate to his wife. He single-handedly forged a road through the mountain in 22 years. This road shortened the distance between the hospital and his village from 75 km to 1 km.”
The Value of Caring
Caring for others opens the curtains of our heart and let’s the light shine in. This light is reflected in the mirrors of our love and life experiences, and then through our open heart returned back out to brighten. To care is to give light is to love is to give light is to care.
Most of the articles about caring ended up focusing more on caregiving — like a nurse, therapist, or home-health professional — instead of looking after a friend or family member — but as I read and relished their offerings, I found a few more relevant ones, and realized that their value was the same. In “The Many Benefits of Caring for Others,” The National Opinion Research Center of Canada says Eight in ten of those who care for others report having a positive experience — “from gaining a greater sense of purpose to new life skills.” They say that some of the benefits include: 1. feeling good, 2. feeling a sense of accomplishment, 3. feeling loved and building strong relationships, and 4. feeling valued and experiencing personal growth. James Michael Sama, in “7 Reasons Caring is a Strength,” says “Without choosing to care for others, your ability to make a difference gets taken away.” Natalie Burns-Holland, in “Why Teaching Kids About Caring Is Important,” says “When we allow ourselves to show care to those around us, we are truly allowing ourselves to live happier, more complete lives.” She goes on to say “One of the biggest reasons being caring is so important is that it gives us the ability to help others and understand when others are in need.” “Caring is one of the six positive Moorelands character qualities that make up the ‘Pillars of Character’, on top of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, and citizenship.”
The Benefits of Encouragement
If I’m preaching to the choir, then make a joyful noise — that harmonizes the colors of the rainbow.
In “The Benefit of Encouragement,” Tim Blackhall says “When we are in the middle of a trial, words as simple as, ‘Don’t lose hope, I believe in you,’ can make all the difference. Encouragement can do wonders for your outlook on life. It helps us push through the bad times.” He says the benefits of encouragement include: 1. Accomplishment, 2. Hope, 3. Perspective, 4. Self Esteem, and 5. Success. Lauren Romano, in “What Are The Benefits Of Encouragement” says “Encouragement can play a vital role in how a child grows and develops and how adults thrive in their day-to-day lives.” She says encouragement boosts our 1. Self Confidence, 2. Effort, 3. Success, 4. Self Esteem, and 5. Validation. In “The Benefits of Encouragement,” Mike Santiago says “Encouraging words can do wonders to make us work harder instead of thinking about surrender.” He says these are some of the most important benefits of encouragement: 1. it gives us energy to reach our goals, 2. it gives us hope, 3. it helps us broaden our perspective, 4. it gives us more self confidence, 5. it improves our productivity, 6. it helps us succeed, and 7. it increases our self esteem. Sounds like they’re all pretty much in agreement about the general benefits of encouragement.
I believe that its benefits depend upon what it is needed for, but for hearts that have been torn apart by losses, betrayals of trust, and traumas; encouragement can rekindle strength and hope to help us carry on. Imagine a courageous woman who has sustained multiple traumas and losses, each of which broke her heart a little more. Now try to picture her heart — just a fraction of its original size and strength — barely big enough and strong enough to sustain her life, but nothing more. So she is physically and emotionally depressed, tired, lacking energy, and devoid of hope. Her heart is fighting hard to just survive. Now envision a caring friend giving her daily injections of love — encouraging words, reminders of who she really is, daily updates, playful humor, and unconditional acceptance and support — every day no matter what. Now fancy her heart starting to strengthen a little, the broken parts re-connecting, and then parts of her begin to re-awaken — start to come alive again. Her heart is growing stronger, and as it does it can support more things — more than just the basic survival needs — and she first finds hope again, then strength, and then love. And then the first thing she wants to do is share this love with others to help them through their pain. For me, this is an example of the power of love, the value of caring, and the benefits of encouragement. And if you give this gift — and never give up — you will help them come alive again — you will give to them that needed breath of life.
Photo Credit: Katchooo