Print   |   Back
February 20, 2013
Just for a Day
Pause To Help and Lift Another
by Kathryn Grant

My family had just returned to the United States from four years overseas and it had been quite an adjustment for me. I was in the sixth grade. The schoolwork was easier than it had been in Europe, but the unfamiliar culture, social norms, and even style of dress left me confused and uncertain. I didn't feel that I fit in or was accepted by most of the children.

There was a bright spot in the situation, though: it was my favorite teacher, Miss Harcleroad. She was interesting, creative and kind. I remember one class module on economics where she used a novel approach. We pretended that we lived on an island and, under her guidance, created our own society with families and an economic structure. The module spanned several weeks, and we were asked to keep a journal about our experiences. I loved the interactive approach that made learning fun and economics understandable. I especially enjoyed writing about our classroom experiences in my journal.

So it was a shock when Miss Harcleroad called the class to order one day and gave us a dressing down. We weren't taking our assignments seriously, she told us, and how could we expect to learn if we wouldn't apply ourselves? I was unhappy at the thought of letting her down, and I also felt the familiar insecurity creeping in. I thought I really had tried to do well, and I wasn't sure what I should have done differently.

Trying to put her point across, Miss Harcleroad began to address individual members of the class. "John, are you happy with your work? Do you feel you've done a good job?"

"No," he admitted.

She asked another student who responded similarly. Then I heard her call my name and ask the same question: "Are you pleased with your work?"

Even though I really was, I didn't dare answer in the affirmative. Looking down, I quietly answered, “No.”

"Well, you should be!"

I looked up, stunned. She went on to praise my work and recommend it as an example. It was the last thing I expected.

Looking back, I’m sure my teacher realized that I needed the positive affirmation. The short-term effect was immediate: over the ensuing weeks I felt a new confidence, and I put even more effort into my assignments in her class. But the impact didn’t stop there. Over the years that simple experience has come back to me time and again, reminding me what a difference it makes when someone lets you know they believe in you.

So here's the challenge for today's column: Find someone you can encourage, someone who needs to know that they're appreciated and valued—perhaps a family member, a friend, or even someone you meet at the grocery store. Take time to express appreciation for something positive about them. As the hymn invites us,“Pause to help and lift another.” (Hymn 220, “Lord, I would Follow Thee.”) You never know the far-reaching impact you could have.

Copyright © 2024 by Kathryn Grant Printed from