“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”
- Proverbs 12:25
When I was fourteen years old I had the opportunity to attend an intense five-week long sports summer camp, and since I would be entering high school that fall, it was great preparation for the new challenge of competing in high school sports. So, for those five weeks I gave it all I had. The last few days of camp were especially intense as we prepared for the final competitive events, even more so because parents would be arriving to watch. I couldn’t wait to show my own parents how much I had grown and improved. Except, at the last minute I received news that my dad had been injured in an accident, prohibiting my parents from traveling. Other arrangements had been made for my transportation back home at the end of camp. Words cannot describe how heartbroken and distraught I was.
In the final track meet I was competing in the 440-yard dash. Although I was not an especially fast runner, I was determined to win that race in honor of my parents, who were also brokenhearted for not being able to attend. So, when the starting gun cracked, I shot out of the blocks like a rocket, maintaining the lead for most of the race. Then, just at the finish line another runner overtook me by half a step. I had never felt such defeat and disappointment in my life. Afterwards, lying face down in the dirt sobbing, I felt two gentle hands on my shoulders lifting me back on my feet. It was one of my dad’s best friends, who then put his arms around me praising my efforts. I’ll never forget his words. “What a competitor you are!” he said. “You ran that race like you’re SOMEBODY!”
Given that we are all more or less quarantined these days with the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been struggling with what I can do to help those in need since we’re warned not to get too close to anyone. Then it occurred to me how my dad’s friend’s uplifting words had soothed my grieving heart all those years ago, more than any kind act I could ever imagine. Indeed, the memory of that gesture has helped me through many other discouraging times throughout my life. So, who knows what impact an encouraging word might have on those heartbroken or distraught in these difficult times? It may mean more than any other act of kindness we could do. As the ancient Proverb reminds us, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”