From time to time in youth ministry you get thanked in a tangible way – not just the in-passing, “thank you so much!” that you might get in the hallway, but a real, physical thank you thing that is handed to you or left on your desk or in your inbox. The box inbox, not the email inbox. Sometimes it’s a gift card, which you should use immediately because otherwise you’ll forget you have it and after a year the vendor starts ever so slowly taking it back.
But sometimes it’s a note or a full-on letter, and that’s the kind of thing that I’m talking about today. I used to try to keep them all together, jammed up in a drawer or maybe a file or sometimes even my wallet. Years ago I had a youth that delighted in giving me grammar-bomb thank you notes, intentionally evil in execution because she knew I would cringe reading them but simultaneously feel compelled to keep them because they were, in fact, thank you notes. Example: “Their are times were you have had been the only one I can talk too and your always their for me.” …aaaaahhhhHHH thank you, Steph.
My practice over the last few years is to hide them from myself. Perhaps odd sounding, but it goes like this: Receive the letter. Read the letter, feel unexpectedly affirmed. Hide letter. Find letter again. Feel unexpectedly affirmed.
I don’t mean hide them down a layer on your messy desk or hide them all in the same drawer. Hide them places you won’t look for a while. Drop one behind a cabinet. Jam one between books on your shelf. Stick one in the Bible that you read when you’re just reading for the sake of reading and not trying to put together a lesson.
Just kidding, I know you don’t have one of those. But when you hide those notes of encouragement they’ll come back when you least expect it. The day when you finally reach for the commentary on Joel. The day when you finally clean under your desk. The day when you’re moving out because you’ve been fired. Finding those notes of encouragement can mean an awful lot.
This may not work for everyone; you may be a person that has a specially decorated shoe box jammed full of “I <3 U” sticky notes from every fall retreat you’ve ever been on. That works too. The point is to find ways to remind yourself that you are loved and that you are doing amazing work in the lives of amazing people.
You rule. Don’t miss out on letting people tell you that again and again.