I opened a note card from a favorite young cousin and was startled and pleased by what she had written: “I love you.” She brought joy to my heart.

I didn’t expect it, and there was no apparent reason for her gesture. What a delightful surprise!

So often those of us who are older worry about the younger generation. Will they carry on the traditions? Will they honor family? Will they love and honor God?

This young woman is a terrific athlete, an excellent student and a devoted Christian.

What makes it so hard for us to tell those around us how much we care for them?

They make our lives worth living and yet we remain silent. We tell ourselves that we will call or write them a note.

Yet time slips by and the kind words go unspoken and the notes never get written.

Good intentions get swallowed up by the ordinary chores of living. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into years. Suddenly, the opportunity to brighten a life is gone. We are left with regrets about what we felt but left unsaid.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Two weeks ago, I answered a telephone call from my friend, Chuck. He called me to say goodbye and let me know how much he valued our friendship. He was suffering from terminal cancer.

As hard as the call was to receive, it spoke volumes about my friend. Now he is gone but what a gift he gave me.

A few years ago, I started writing a weekly blog titled, “Thankful Thursday.” Each Thursday, I chose a person who had contributed to my life and wrote my blog about her or him.

The most surprising thing about the blog was the responses I received: “How did you know how badly I needed this?” “How did you know that I was having a terrible day?”

How did I know? It is simple: Everyone needs encouragement and a word of kindness.

Even Jesus expressed a similar longing. After he healed the 10 lepers, only one returned to thank him. Jesus asked, “Weren’t all 10 healed? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:17)

One Sunday, I visited Providence Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., and the pastor Don Flowers preached on this topic.

He stationed nine pretenders in the congregation. Each man represented a missing leper who was healed.

Each in turn rose and gave his excuse for not returning to thank Jesus, but that is what they were – excuses.

Each year during the celebration of “Say Something Nice Sunday,” the first Sunday in June, as worshipers leave First Baptist Church of Charleston, he or she is given a daisy to give to a stranger along with a kind word.

People come back with amazing stories of gratitude from those who received the daises. Daisies are symbols of friendship.

It is a simple, inexpensive gesture, but the results are tremendous. Giving the daisy makes it easier for those who otherwise might not speak to a stranger.

Paying compliments or saying encouraging words does not come easily for many people. They did not grow up around role models who said encouraging things.

Some grew up in homes where words were only used to scold or punish. Others grew up in silent homes.

Others are suspicious that there is a hidden agenda behind the compliments.

The easiest way to overcome this reluctance to say kind things is to keep your compliments simple. Don’t strive to be unique.

Jesus gave us a great encouragement in saying, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:1).

We can embody this truth through simple words of affirmation or greeting: “Thank you for helping me.” “Your sermon this morning was very helpful.” “Good morning. I’m glad to see you.”

Always be sincere with your compliments. We are drawn to those who are authentic. We are all drawn to people we can trust.

Mitch Carnell is a consultant specializing in effective communication. He and his wife, Carol, are members of First Baptist Church of Charleston, S.C. He blogs at MitchCarnell.com.

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