Recently I was looking through my bookshelf and came across a small book that had been given to me by a friend on my 21st birthday. The book was called Silver Boxes – the Gift of Encouragement. I remember receiving this book all those years ago and thinking to myself – why did my friend give me this particular book? Is it because she thinks I am encouraging of others and she wanted to affirm that gift in me? Or is it because she thinks I am not particularly encouraging and this book is a not so subtle hint to prompt me to change? Or perhaps it was neither and she just chose the book because it had a lovely picture on the cover? After pondering this for a few days I eventually decided that irrespective of her motive, I would read the book anyway.
The book was written by a lady called Florence Littauer and the title Silver Boxes came from an experience she had while teaching a Bible class for young children. She was explaining the meaning of Ephesians 4:29 which says; “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you”.
As they discussed the verse the children in her Bible class came up with several interpretations, such as saying nice things to others, giving compliments, being cheerful and telling the truth. At the end of their discussion they agreed that the words coming out of our mouths should be like presents, all wrapped up to be given away. One little girl took this metaphor a step further and stood up, loudly declaring for the group to hear that “our words should be like little silver boxes with bows on top. Hence the inspiration for the book.
Although I initially thought this book, its title and cover to be a little bit cheesy, as I read it I couldn’t help but agree with the analogy. Our words really should be gifts, like little silver boxes with bows on top. After all, who doesn’t love to receive a gift? Especially one that it is chosen purposefully and wrapped beautifully. Likewise, our words should be like verbal presents given freely and thoughtfully with the purpose of encouraging others.
It is important to note that this book was written over 25 years ago and at a time when emails, text messaging and social media were yet to be realised. However, in today’s world these mediums of communication are so common that they have replaced many of our face to face conversations. Young people especially, are confronted with many opportunities each day to respond to electronic messages and images. Even though the replies to these messages are rarely verbal and consist largely of written text, images, icons and emoticons the principle above still applies. The messages that we convey to others should leave the person feeling better as a result of the interaction.
The Bible speaks a lot about the power of our words. In Proverbs 21:23 we read “if you want to stay out of trouble, be careful what you say”. The older I get the more I realise the importance of selecting my words carefully. Whether I am composing an email, sending a text message, talking on the phone or in a face to face conversation I have made it my personal challenge to try to speak truth, hope, and encouragement to others. While I know that I won’t always be successful in this quest I am determined to deliver as many little silver boxes as I can to the people I interact with each day.