I drove a young lady to her house, about twenty minutes from town, the other day. We were total strangers and for the first four minutes or so, as I tried to break the ice, she answered my casual statements in one and two syllable words. “Yeah,” “Uh-huh,” “Yeah.”
You can tell a lot about people by their eyes. My passenger kept hers riveted to her lap, the floor, somewhere down–her glance was down.
A wire dog crate rattled in the back of my SUV as we pulled onto Highway 140. “My husband and I took our puppy with us out of town yesterday. We got in late,” I said, explaining the cage and still looking for a connection to her heart.
What I really wanted to say was, “Who told you that you’re not significant? What’s going on at home? Have you been abused? Are you a trauma survivor? What’s life like for you?”
But I didn’t. Of course, I wouldn’t burst into the middle of someone’s life, not like that. So, I pried the door open with random comments about my “puppy,” my 70 pound Doberman puppy. Let’s just say that he outgrew his cuteness six months ago when he no longer could run under our Labrador mix, but technically he’s still a puppy.
Her brother lives at home with her and he has a dog, I learned. His dog is a puppy, too. One that messes in the house and destroys things. She hates this particular puppy, by the way. Her eyes barely left her lap, the floor, or whatever it was that she was looking at–her glance remained down.
I’ve seen this before in young women, this avoidance, shame, or social distress. Usually, it’s there because something awful happened to distort their identity. Usually, whatever happened isn’t pretty and it’s not the topic of polite conversation.
In the short twenty minutes that I had with her, I wanted to infuse my passenger’s heart with healing words to undo the pain and erase the lies. What I wish I could’ve said to her is what every girl needs to know: You are a genius. You have value and purpose. You are beautiful. Do you know how creative you are? You are God’s masterpiece. You are His princess.
On a road with more sagebrush and livestock than houses, I pulled into the gravel driveway of a small, plain modular home. Two dogs, their heads poking between curtain panels, watched us through a large window and barked. My passenger got out. She still averted my glance, even as I bid her a good day.
Albert Einstein said, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” I know that the opposite is just as true. If you tell someone who believes they’re stupid how smart they really are, they will live as though they believe it.
We have the privilege, the responsibility, to infuse the hearts of people with the truth of how amazing they really are. Encouragement is a gift that we can give anytime we choose. It only costs us a minute or three of our time, but the dividends more than make even the smallest of our efforts worth it.
“Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body”–Proverbs 16:24
Pamela Koefoed, 2016