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Sowing encouragement

Sowing encouragement

Two seats over from me in a crowded airport gate, a young teen bends over his sketchbook. I decide we should talk.

I’m not big on striking up conversations in airports or flights. With our culture of technological isolation, it seems like an interruption to talk to anyone. Giant headphones shield this particular boy. I am also keenly aware of the awkwardness of an adult stranger talking directly to a child in a society where we let our fears check our sociability.

But art matters to me. So does encouragement.

I get his attention and give him a thumbs up for what he is drawing. He seems pleased. So I show him the sketchbook I travel with – to establish that I’m a fellow artist and not just a creepy guy in an airport – and ask if I can look through his. He hands the book over. It’s filled with the kinds of sketches I have come to expect from boys his age: dragons, action figures, anime. I ask him questions about some of them.


He has real talent. I tell him so. And then I give him advice, based on the thousands of kids I’ve worked with over the years. Later, I notice as I get up, he is working on the very thing I suggested. I’m pleased.

Encouragement is like sowing seeds. When that positive comment we’ve planted fully grows, it can nourish many others. I know a friend whose mother, in her first encounter with church as a young girl, was invited by her Sunday School teacher to help teach one of the lessons. That kindness and belief in her nascent gifts brought her to faith. And one simple act of encouragement, growing over the course of her life, brought hundreds of others into the light of Christ’s love.

I don’t expect anything so profound to come from my words to this boy. But I am warmed by the thought that my planted encouragement could grow in him for a lifetime.

Lord, you tell us repeatedly in your word to encourage one another. Help us to see the opportunities you give us each day to plant words, like seeds, into the hearts of others. Fill us with the joy of the farmer, knowing that our crops are growing – crops that ultimately, we pray, would bring honor and pleasure to you.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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