The Gift of Words

By; Michelle Gunnin

I am a natural encourager.  I am also a teacher.  It is not clear to me which came first.  Am I a teacher because I am an encourager, or is it the other way around? Either way, I have found great pleasure in building others up and helping them to feel valued.  I do this in several ways, but mainly I write notes.  They started off as handwritten expressions of appreciation.  Never underestimate the power of a good thank you note.  From there I started writing little memos just to brighten someone’s day.  When the internet was invented, my note writing grew to a whole new level. The speed with which my words traveled was amazing!  Notes turned into letters at the point when my typing speed surpassed my handwritten scrawl, and while I still love a handwritten note, the ability to communicate instantly has made inspiration easy to spread on a daily basis.  Nothing motivates me like motivating someone else.  It is my passion.

All this encouraging had been going on for a while before it occurred to me that I should use words to bless my own family.  I was busy reaching out to those who were downtrodden or had been through some trauma or another.  Having walked those roads myself, I knew the importance of not feeling alone.  However, there came a day when I recognized my words could bolster people even in good times.  I knew I had been given a gift of words, but I also learned that words are a gift, like a present to be opened.

At Christmas, in the bottom of the stockings, I began to give the gift of words to my children.  I mean, I had been doing this for years for other people, so why had I not ever done it for my own children?  They are simple notes, no more than a paragraph, or two, that tell them what I see in them.  They are expressions of how they have grown over the past year, and what I see forming in their lives.  Gifts and talents are affirmed, but I also tell them how proud I am of them and how much I love them. Simple.  It doesn’t take much time and even less money, yet they are some of the most anticipated gifts I give all year.  I have found them on bulletin boards in college dorm rooms, and on desktops at home.  They are stuffed in Bibles, and taped to walls and magnetized onto refrigerators.  I put a little of myself in every note, and that heartfelt sentiment brings a lift to the lives it touches.

My point is that words are a powerful, meaningful gift.  As writers, we might not realize that.  For us, words come naturally and so we do not always recognize what a gift they can be to someone.  Yet, as an encourager, I can tell you that many to whom I have sent messages, treasure them.  They hold them for years.  They reread them long after I have forgotten what I even wrote. I know this because they tell me so.  I don’t know why it always surprises me because I do the same thing.  I have a collection of letters given to me in difficult times which bolstered me.  I have a box of cards with notes written in them that made me feel loved.  It wasn’t the cards that were the gift, it was the WORDS.  It is the season for giving presents wrapped in shiny paper with bows, and while ‘words’ may not be on the top of anyone’s Christmas list, they are definitely a gift to be given that will last longer than most, and be more significant. Here are some things you might want to include in your gift.

  • Appreciation- It never hurts to thank someone for being themselves. Everyone has something they have given to you, so figure out what it is and tell them how much it means to you. It can be thanking your mom for years of hard work that has gone unrecognized or thanking your boss for being fair. Anything that is noticed and communicated in words will have an impact.
  • Encouragement- You can encourage people when they are down by lifting them up. But you can also encourage people on an average day just by telling them how much what they do means to you.  I once wrote a note to our personnel director, thanking her for her hard work at trying to find the best teachers for our students. Most people are running on a shortage of affirmation, so giving some with your words is like putting fuel in their tank.
  • Vision- This is particularly good for your kids, but can apply to anyone. Share with them what you see for them.  Not so much, ‘I see you working in a job someday,’ but more like, ‘I see your strength is in your compassion for people.  That is going to make a difference in someone’s life.’  Or maybe, ‘You are good with numbers, which means you are a problem solver.  Our world needs more problem solvers like you.’ As a writer, you see those kinds of connections if you look for them.  Once you do, simply write them down.
  • Stories-Telling stories of friendship, or of something that stood out when your kids were younger, or even stories from when you were dating your spouse can stir up warm memories. As writers we are storytellers, are we not? Why not use that talent to tell your own stories about those you love? It lets them know they have had an impact on you, and someday generations from now, they will be a heartwarming tribute to your relationships.
  • Value- Telling people they are valuable just does something to their hearts. It increases confidence.  It builds them up.  It increases positivity.  It is like a healing balm that softens and covers past hurts and pains.  It allows them to be themselves because they begin to see who they truly are, important people with great worth.
  • Hope- Giving hopeful words to those without hope is like giving water to a man in the desert. They drink it up thirstily, but you don’t have to be without hope to benefit. Hope is what inspires change.  It creates movement.  It gives light in the darkness. Pour it out, and life follows. Everyone needs hope in their lives. What better time of the year to spread hope than Christmas?
  • Feelings- I know, I know…you are asking to I have to share my feelings? The answer is no; you don’t have to.  However, if you want this gift to be meaningful, telling someone how you feel about them is the sure fire way to do so. (Be honest, though. Don’t say something you don’t mean.)  When I had cancer, I recognized the importance of regularly telling those I love how much I cared for them in writing so they would remember if I wasn’t around to tell them in person.

This list should get you started, and the great thing is that words are an appropriate gift for everyone on your list.  Your boss.  Your co-workers.  Your friends.  Your pastor/priest.  Your children.  Your parents.  Your spouse.  Your neighbors.  Even the bagger at the grocery store could use some words.  Every person wants to be acknowledged and understood. Words give them that. Do not underestimate the power of the Gift of Words.


  1. […] This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote last at Christmas last year for Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog.  As we prepare gifts this season let us not forget, words are powerful, can be given to everyone on your list, and…they are free! You can read the entire piece here.  […]

  2. Reblogged this on Women of Warfare! (WOW!) and commented:

    I recently read a beautiful blog post that inspired me. I am reblogging it below. Although the post is Christmas-related, I feel its message is still pertinent and, what’s more I’d like to challenge followers and readers to take this concept in another direction and give a gift of prayer this year to your loved ones (or even to your enemies!).

    My challenge is to all but particularly to those who do not pray regularly, who see prayer as a dry difficult exercise, or last-ditch resort when afflictions arise or catastrophe seems imminent.

    The Bible is replete with examples of people, who motivated by love or concern for others, used their words to send our Father God precious parcels of prayers. People like Moses, Abraham and Paul the apostle. And those gifts of prayers averted judgment, saved lives, strengthened believers during their trials.

    I love receiving gifts. I also enjoy the pleasure of giving gifts to others that are appreciated, particularly when that person least expects it. Most of all however, I love to know that someone is holding me up in prayer. To me, when someone sacrifices their time to send petitions to God on my behalf it is like a precious gift.

    Is there a friend, a family member, a work colleague, neighbour, or fellow-believer whom you could bless with the gift of your words in prayer this week, this month, this year?

    Have a blessed week!

  3. Wow! What a beautiful post and what a powerful act – to give loved ones our words of appreciation and affirmation as a gift. I too like to encourage others and have done so with verbally and with cards but this goes one meaningful step further.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful idea. You have inspired me.

  4. Hi Michelle, I love the way you described the idea of words as gifts. I always felt very touched by the unexpected sincere thanks and appreciations in a little note. I understand those little notes can be very heart warming and they go a long way. you describing it this way gives a new face and a even a new concept to it. It is a lovely idea to have words as gifts. Thank you for sharing it with the world so beautifully!

  5. Hi Michelle, another great motivational post I can bite my teeth into! You have reminded me of what is important. We did not have a family Christmas get together last year (2015), It was only a year after my father’s passing. I just didn’t have the enthusiasm to put it together. It was my nine year old nephew AJ, who was so disappointed we did not hold our traditional function. I asked him why he missed it. He said, “Uncle Johnny, I love it when we are all together and tell stories. It makes me feel good.” I promised him then and their I would not let another one slip by us. I will use your ideas this coming New Year. Merry Christmas!

    • John,
      Those kids…they keep us moving forward, don’t they? I am having a group of folks who have lost people this year for Christmas dinner. None of them feel like decorating or cooking…but being together is important…weep with those who weep. And I am giving each family a note to speak life into broken hearts. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  6. Hi, Michelle. I think everyone should adopt this idea of a note in the stocking. We have a tradition in my family. After Christmas dinner, we all draw names and write a few lines about why we are grateful that the person is in our lives. My eight-year old grandson did it at his school and wanted to do for the family, so we’re going on three years now and he reminded me to make the name sheets when we talked last night.

    Kind and encouraging words go far and there’s too few of them in the world. Thanks for the reminder. I appreciate that.

    • What a great tradition Marilyn…and the fact that your grandson reminded you to bring the name sheets shows you how powerful it is to him! What 8 year old remembers something like that for 3 years in a row? Merry Christmas!

    • I’ve been wanting to have a meaningful Christmas tradition for years and couldn’t come up with a satisfying idea but this one is brilliant! My mother, who loved xmas and loved gathering the family together on occasions died in September last year (2016). How I wish I’d known about this idea so we could have used it.

      • Start it now. It’s not too late to fill up the hearts of those around you, and even though your mom is no longer among you, I think she would smile at the idea. You could even write her a note. It would bring healing to your own grieving heart. Words are powerful like that.

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