As a young mother, I heard author and speaker Ann Ortlund talk about cheerleading on paper. She said that when you want to compliment someone, you should write it, contending that we may easily forget spoken words, no matter how inspiring. But written words give power and credibility to a thought, especially an encouraging thought. Later on, when the person you complimented needs a soul-lift, they have your words of affirmation to help them overcome self-doubt and discouragement.
I wanted to implement Mrs. Ortlund’s suggestion in our own family, and discovered that Thanksgiving was the perfect day to start this cheerleading on paper. Before we ate dinner, we put each person’s name on a slip of paper and dropped them in a basket. After the meal, everyone drew a name from the basket—no peeking!
Our Family Puts It into Practice
Then we sat with pen or pencil and paper and wrote that person a note telling them why we were thankful for them. When the children were too small to write, they whispered their dictations to us. After all were completed, we went around the table and read them aloud. Some brought laughter, others tears, all a sense of kinship and gratitude.
How amazing to see God’s hand at work during these “Thankful Letter” moments. A sister forced to write why she was thankful for her pesky little brother sees him in a new light for a moment. A dad suddenly realizes he needs to express his esteem for his son more often. A spouse receives praise for a quality they thought had gone unnoticed.
Hearts stir to new feelings of affection and loyalty. God is thrilled. We are ministering to each other the way He intended when He created the family, bringing out the gifts in each other’s lives. Thanksgiving becomes a time of refreshing our commitment to the ones we love most. We are further cementing that love by writing it.
I used this cheer leading on paper method throughout my children’s lives to tell them how proud I was of a character quality they exhibited; to applaud an achievement of theirs; and to share a bit of wisdom from God’s Word for their futures. I’ve also used it with my husband and close friends, to show my esteem for them in a tangible, permanent way.
An Author Receives Some Much-needed Cheerleading
In his book, Communicate to Change Lives, author James Watkins shares a letter he received from a thankful reader when his article on suicide saved her life. It may have taken that reader five minutes to write the letter, but the encouragement it gave Jim will last his lifetime. Seeing her gratitude in black and white brought it alive to Jim, just as his words on the page gave life to her. Both individuals were forever changed by the written word.
The Creator has placed people in our lives to make us better than we could be without them. He has put us in others’ lives to bring them closer to His good plan for them. Sharing our thankfulness to those people through writing is a way to celebrate His goodness, and to enlarge their hearts toward Him.
Has God used someone to make a positive difference in your life? Don’t just tell it to them; spell it to them. Write your thanks.