I had an errand to run in the sprawling metropolis of Hornbeak, Tennessee. The bank clerk who was helping me looked up and said, “Oh, you’re the one who wrote that article about C. S. Lewis last week!”
I confirmed that she was correct.
“Could you tell me more about the book you were reading?” she asked.
I was checking things off my ToDo list at the time, not contemplating C. S. Lewis, so it took me a few seconds to shift brain gears. I realized that she was asking about Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy.
The clerk wrote down the title. “I’m going to call the library and request a copy this afternoon.”
A couple of things about this encounter with the bank teller:
First, small towns have some charming qualities. Like tiny little banks, for instance, where there are no lines, no waiting, and no rush to take care of business. Plenty of time for conversation. And a clerk, a stranger to me, actually read the name on my account, recognized it as “that lady who writes for the newspaper” – and then took the time to say something.
Second, the fact that this lady read my article, remembered my name, and then commented about the article to me was such a rush. What’s more, she was motivated to read C. S. Lewis herself!
Painters paint. Dancers dance. Musicians sing and play. Writers write. We are all striving to communicate, to connect with other people. Often, communication attempts feel like one-way signals, monologues into space.
Yes, I write for me – writing helps me process thoughts and events and feelings, and, well, writing is fun. But I write “out there” – for the newspaper, for the blog, even personal letters – be cause I hope my words will encourage or help or inspire another. Unless there is a reply from someone “out there,” I have no way of knowing if my writing does any of those things.
When I mentioned the encounter at the bank to my editor at the newspaper, she wrote back: “I’m not sure the average reader knows how much it means for them to comment and show an interest in something that means so much to you.”
How much does it mean? It’s like ET, finally getting a message from home. It means I have finally connected in some small way with another human being.
Today, I encourage you to take time to encourage others. Write a note to your church pianist, telling her how much you appreciate the beauty she contributes to each worship service. Take a bouquet of flowers or a plate of cookies to your local librarian. Write a comment to a blog post or a newspaper article. Smile at the clerk who checks your groceries. Wave at the postman. (Hi, Russell!)
Connect. Encourage. Respond to the people around you, and you will make a positive difference in the world.