A short while ago, I met the Most Perky Panera Employee ever.
Her name tag read Anna, and she sported a cute pixie cut that made her Panera apron look like something from a Paris runway. As she took my order, her words bounced throughout the store like a pep squad leader’s, cheerful and bright. Given the late evening time, I wondered if she’d thrown back more than one espresso through the course of the day.
Not long after taking my seat close to the counter, a teenage boy plodded in, feet heavy and tired. He approached the counter, fingers combing his sandy blonde hair as he mumbled to Anna,
“Um, can I . . . uh . . . get a job application?”
Anna immediately sprang into action.
“Of course! I’d be thrilled to help you out!” she leaned slightly across the counter, her smile sparkling. “Now listen, you can find everything you need online. Go to panera.com and fill out their application tonight, k? Don’t skip any of the parts! Then come here first thing tomorrow morning and turn it in. That’s what I did and I got a call for an interview within a few days!”
The boy looked bewildered but nodded.
“And you know what else?” Anna chirped. “I’ll be here in the morning! Yep, I’ll be here first thing. I’ll make sure your application gets to *juuuust* the right person, k? Does that sound good to you?”
He answered a bit more confidently, “Well, yes. Thank you.”
And then she threw one last cartwheel into her pep talk, “Great! You know what? You’re as good as hired, I just know it! I’m rooting for you!”
After one more thank you he turned and left, his footsteps noticeably lighter. The boy may not have known what hit him, but he couldn’t help but feel buoyed by her cheerleader words and effervescent enthusiasm.
While we don’t all have the personality or comfort level to tell a stranger we’re rooting for them, perhaps we can be brave and kind enough to gift these words to someone we do know. There’s no doubt that words give life. Their weight and movement can energize people and give them confidence to not only see themselves the way their Creator does, but to do things they might not have had the courage to do otherwise.
While shaming words can take courage out of a soul, encouraging and affirming words can put courage back in. –Scott Sauls, Befriend
Each of us have been on the receiving end of shaming words that feed lies and strip truth of its courage. We know snarkiness and unfair criticism can do harm, but I think we underestimate just how motivating – and reality changing – life words can be.
And while kind words indeed give courage to others, kind words take a good dose of courage to deliver as well.
Hop onto social media for ten seconds, and you’ll see biting, sarcastic communication is the way the river flows these days. I say that with the full knowledge that I myself have a sarcastic streak, oh yes I do. But really, sarcasm is just pride in a cute skirt. And habitually engaging in it is to go the easy way down the river.
I want to be part of a people traveling the waters upstream.
Yes, there’s a time for constructive criticism. A personal rebuke has its place, certainly. But cutting others down to build ourselves up is never the way of Jesus.
Choosing to offer kindness makes other souls stronger.
Choosing to speak kindness makes our souls stronger.
And on an ordinary Tuesday in Panera, I saw both in action.
On each day thereafter, I hope I don’t ever forget that there are a thousand ways to let others know you’re for them as you fan the flames of courage within them.
May we each find a way to travel the courageous, upstream way and let someone know,“Hey, I’m rooting for you.”
And I’m rooting for you, too.