“I came from a really rough background,” the man told us as he trained our mission team to be better tutors for the children in our neighborhood. “I was twelve years old, and I didn’t have much going for me.
“One day, I was in a gymnastics class right around the corner from here. The teacher was full of life and all the kids wanted to be around him. At one point as I was trying a gymnastics move, he said something that I will never forget.
He said, ‘This kid won’t quit.’
“If it wasn’t true before he said it, it became true after he said it.
When I went to middle school and had trouble, I said to myself, ‘I’m a kid that doesn’t quit.’ When I thought about not finishing high school, I said ‘I’m a kid that doesn’t quit.’ When I was the first person in my family to go to college and I was facing difficulties, I said, ‘I won’t quit.’ Then I completed graduate school because I am a kid that doesn’t quit. Now I am teaching other people to encourage at-risk children, all because of four words a young teacher said to me when I was a child.”
As I listened to this man talk, I wondered what that gymnastics teacher felt like that day long ago when he went home and his wife said, “How did the day go?”
He might have said, “Not much happened, just the same old work with a bunch of rowdy kids.” We may never know the effect our words have on another person.
When we think about the possibilities for compassion ministries, one of the things to remember is that for many people, it is more important for them to be noticed than for them to have their tangible need met.
Then even the words we speak can have an unexpected power. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” the Bible says (Proverbs 18:21).