“Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” – Romans 15:2
Imagine a young teenager being preyed upon by cyber-bullies, which tragically has become a common occurrence in our society today. As we all know, such hurtful behavior can be especially devastating for someone at that vulnerable and tender age. So, it was with this child who, from all the awful things being said to her and about her over the internet, went into an emotional tailspin of deep depression. But then an amazing and unexpected thing happened. Dozens and dozens of letters started pouring in from friends and neighbors within the community expressing encouragement and support. It was that overwhelming encouragement that brought about the turning point when she began to rebound from her anxiety and depression. Soon she was back on solid ground looking forward to a bright and productive future.
Far from being an imaginary story, we witnessed this happen, and were in fact among those who wrote letters of support and encouragement. I recall feeling especially empathetic toward her because of an experience I had had in my own life. I was in my junior year of college, a time when I should have seen light at the end of tunnel toward graduation. Instead, I hit a wall, a period of self-doubt, a what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life crisis. My grades began to suffer as I lost faith in myself, even doubting God. Then an amazing and unexpected thing happened. A single letter arrived in my mailbox one day. It was from John, a man who was like a second father to me – a neighbor! – yet not one in the habit of writing letters. There it was, though, in barely legible handwriting, at most four or five sentences long, part much-deserved kick in the shorts, and part much-needed and appreciated message of encouragement, exactly what I needed. It was, like the young teenager, the turning point when I began to rebound.
Each of us should probably be asking ourselves who we know who needs a word of encouragement? The answer, of course, is everyone! As someone once pointed out, “There isn’t one person in your line of vision who is as confident as they seem. We’re all one failure, snide comment, or bad hair day away from self-doubt.” Therefore, “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” What a difference those scores of letters made in the life of that young teenager, and what a difference that one single thoughtful letter made to me!