This year has been harder than most for many people. While others may struggle with loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, discouragement, depression and other negative feelings at any point in time, the problems and issues of this year have tested almost everyone to some extent. What a great opportunity for your family to reflect God’s love and hope to others.
While there are many things your family can do to encourage someone, this year, it’s important to encourage as many people as possible. It’s difficult to know for sure who is struggling the most at times. The reality is everyone can use some encouragement, love and joy over the remaining few months of the year.
Your family may want to set some sort of specific goal, like making a special effort to encourage a specific number of people each week. Or you may want to find some way to encourage multiple people each day. You may even want to form a lose alliance with other families in your church and encourage each other by sharing ideas or working on a larger project together (but safely socially distant).
The sky’s the limit, but here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Create encouraging chalk drawings. If your neighborhood is like ours, a lot more people are milling about the neighborhood exercising or playing. Why not draw messages of encouragement on your sidewalk or driveway with chalk? If you know for sure your neighbors would appreciate it, you can decorate their driveway, too. Or pull out paper and create chalk drawings for people to display inside and brighten their homes.
- Interact joyfully with others. Whether it’s online or from a socially distanced neighborhood exchange, encourage your family members to smile at everyone they encounter – even if they are wearing a mask. Give a friendly greeting. Ask how they are doing and actually listen to the response. Have your kids learn some riddles and jokes to ask those who want to engage in conversation a little more. Extroverts and those with severe restrictions on going out are most appreciative of any sort of positive social interaction.
- Make or purchase and share little treats with others. Place it on the doorstep, ring the bell and run back about ten feet to keep others safe. It’s amazing what some flowers, cookies, apples or other small treat and a few minutes of conversation can do to encourage someone.
- Send real mail. It’s rare and a bit exciting to get “real” mail. Why not send letters, cards, children’s artwork or care packages to people you know? See how creative you can be in what you send.
- Offer to pray for everyone you meet. We know a couple who has asked every restaurant server they have had for years if there is anything than can pray about for them. The responses have all been positive, pre-COVID. I can imagine anyone you ask today will have something they would like your family to pray about. If you want to make it truly meaningful, keep a written record, pray multiple times about the request and check back in with the person later to let them know you have been praying for them.
- Help meet the basic needs of others. Whether it’s job loss, COVID, hurricane damage, wildfire damage or one of the other multiple issues plaguing many this year, a lot of people have unusual needs for basic supplies like food and clothing. Find creative ways for your family to help meet some of these needs…even if it’s just cleaning out your closet and donating clothes and toys to someone who needs them.
- Run errands or do outside chores for others. Some people are severely restricted in their activities because they are in high risk groups. Or they may still be recovering from COVID or another illness that makes it impossible for them to maintain their yard and exterior of their home. Depending upon your family’s risk tolerance, you and your kids may be able to help with things like yard work, grocery shopping, outdoor maintenance projects and more.
- Make and share scripture art. You can find all sorts of ideas on our website and on Pinterest. Find verses that are encouraging and create scripture art you can share with others.
- Sing or play music in your yard. Granted this one depends upon your family’s level of talent and the personality of your neighbors. We have several young people in our neighborhood who practice their instruments outside in the afternoons, adding a little joy to those exercising in the area. We’ve even had a neighborhood troubadour in the past who played his guitar while riding his skateboard around the neighborhood.
- Go apple picking or fishing and share the wealth. Take an outdoor, safe family outing to an orchard, farmers’ market or fishing area. Share some of what you get with friends or neighbors – especially those who can’t get out or would appreciate some safe interaction when you put it on their doorstep.
What your family does to encourage others is not as important as actually doing something to encourage the people around you. Not only does it help others, but it teaches your kids how to be like Barnabas and become encouragers to those around them. It’s also a great way to teach them how to reflect God’s love by serving others and sharing their faith. It’s a great way for your family to spend time together, too!