How Twenty Seconds of Effort Can Change Someone’s Day

September 28, 2015 | 17 comments

The other day, I stood on the sidelines as the high school marching band finished up its morning rehearsal. Our oldest daughter plays the marimba for the band.

She’s one of several eighth graders invited to play with the high schoolers this year. So, as you might imagine, that’s a little intimidating, especially with challenging musical arrangements.

After rehearsal, I watched as one of the top musicians in the band zig-zagged through the crowd of teenagers to make his way to the marimba. Animatedly, he spoke with my daughter and the other eighth graders, and then he walked away.

Turns out, he’d taken time to encourage the band’s youngest members. 

I watched from the sidelines as my daughter’s face lit up. In the span of twenty seconds, he helped a handful of kids recognize their value to the group.

In that moment, I saw how easy it was to affirm the work and value of another human being. And I was reminded how scarcely we do the same.

We live in an age of cynicism, and a culture of comparison. Kind words are withheld, and put-downs are lobbed — and that’s just among the adults. Take a scroll down your Facebook feed and see the back-biting and bitterness. Behold the dearth of benevolence and decency.

We could all be so much more generous with our love. We could all sprinkle kind words and affirmation wherever we go. Kind words are little seeds that sprout inside of a person, setting off a chain reaction of more seeds — until a whole garden is growing, in the soil of goodwill.

There are three reasons why we don’t affirm others.

1 – We think they already know. Maybe you’re like me, and you assume that people already know how much they are appreciated. So you don’t bother telling them about the value they add to your life, or the lives of others.

2 – It takes effort. We may have to cross through a crowd, or take the time to make a call. But even a small 20-second text, saying, “you matter” could make all the difference today to your kid, your co-worker, your spouse, or your mother.

3 – We’re harboring jealousy. We live in a culture of comparison. We forget, as my friend Lisa-Jo Baker says, that “the Kingdom of God is not a competition; it’s a co-op.”

Here are three reasons why we should encourage and affirm others, even when it’s hard.

1 – Affirmation reverses the trend of cynicism. When we affirm other people, we are taking a stand against the prevailing winds of negativity, and we are giving people dignity.

2 – Affirmation curbs jealousy.  Someone else always gets hurt when we compare, even if we think it’s a secret battle we’re having on the inside. It hurts the person who’s sitting on the other side of our envy. It creates an us-versus-them mentality that can rob the Body of Christ of its unity and fellowship. And it can open up doorways to petty criticisms of the person we believe is doing a better job than we are. Psychology Today reports that when we feel inadequate, we might try to protect our own self-worth by diminishing the work of the ones we envy. “You are engaged in devaluing when you have belittling thoughts about another person, such as petty criticisms.”

But when we affirm the other person, we are seeing the great value in the other person, without letting it prescribe something about us.

3 – God says we should. “Encourage each other and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Like the teenage boy on the marching band field, we could zig-zag through the crowds today, to offer twenty seconds of kindness to someone who might need to hear they matter. With twenty seconds of effort, we can make someone’s day.

Who can we affirm today?


by | September 28, 2015 | 17 comments


  1. Dawn Paoletta

    YES, yes, YES…Can I say I love this, agree with myself…and YOU…and say YES! I concur, yes, I agree, yes, yes, yes. That is all I have to say. One more thing. Just . YES! Um. yes. LOve to YES infinity and beyond. Sorry, Monday makes me giddy and this is just a YES to the umpteenth power post.

    • dukeslee

      You’re the best. Thank you. You’ve affirmed ME today. 🙂

      • dukeslee

        Bless you, Sandra. I loved your FB post this morning. First thing I saw when I woke up … about how harsh words can be so explosive. Thank you!

  2. Nancy Ruegg

    It seems that young man has already learned the important life-lesson about giving trumping receiving–even when it comes to compliments. Yes, giving encouragement is noble and obviously blesses the receiver. But God created those wonderful feel-good endorphins to explode in the giver, as he watches expressions change, eyes light up, and smiles expand. Few folks learn that lesson so early in life as that young man. Thank you, Jennifer, for the delightful challenge to zig-zag through the crowds each day, offering words of kindness as we go. Not only will they be uplifted, so will we!

    • dukeslee

      I love that a star performer did it, too. Those kids were so encouraged.

  3. Martha Orlando

    Oh, yes, Jennifer, may we all take the time to make someone’s day a more meaningful and loving one. Wouldn’t our Lord be proud? Blessings, my friend!

    • dukeslee

      Yes, He would be proud! Thanks, Martha.

  4. pam

    I love this. LOVE it. Thank you for writing this and sharing Jennifer.

    • dukeslee

      You’re welcome, Pam!

  5. David Rupert

    We tend to think in terms of the big splash but really lives are changed one little joy at a time. Great reminder.

  6. Karrilee Aggett

    You, my friend, are simply one of my favorite people! xoxo

  7. Nikki Koon

    My family joined a church when I was 11, and my sister was 13. Both avid singers, we wanted to join the church choir, but when we showed up to the first practice we realized there were no youth members.

    After that first practice we considered quitting, but the choir director made a point of seeking us out with our mom to tell us how much she appreciated us coming, how nicely we sang and that she hoped we would be back. It literally took her about 20 seconds to encourage us, and we sang in that choir until we each left for college. Just a few words can make SUCH a difference.

  8. Tara Ulrich

    This is so wonderful! Yes let’s encourage one another. 20 seconds can make a big difference! Loved thus post!

  9. Kathi Winter

    This is so true of me. So many times I think that they already know. I have also been guilty, being too “tired,” or too into my own self to make an effort, and also, guilty of harboring that old green eyed monster, Jealousy, too. Thank you for sharing this. Kathi

  10. Lisa-Jo Baker

    This is the goods. Just reading this today and so grateful for you and your voice. Man, we need this message. Thank you for reminding us of the old truths that never get old!


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