This is my niece’s birthday.
It hardly seems any time since she was born and here she is, a grown woman, holding down a responsible job as a school teacher, giving encouragement to the young ones in her care as they progress through from P1 to P7.
She herself is no stranger to encouragement, starting with her mum and dad and her two big sisters, who encouraged her to walk, talk and learn the rules of being below them in pecking order!
She is still being encouraged in her vocation from colleagues with their support and friendship.
And this is reciprocated; being encouraged and being an encourager are two sides of one coin.
I speak about this idea of encouraging as today is the feast day of St Barnabas.
His actual name was Joseph, whom the apostles called Barnabas, which means ‘son of encouragement’.
He sold a field he owned, brought the money and turned it over to the apostles, as we hear in the Book of Acts (4:36f).
His new name fits what we know of his actions. When Saul came to Jerusalem after his conversion, most of the Christians there wanted nothing to do with him.
They had known him as a persecutor and an enemy of the Church.
But Barnabas was willing to give him a second chance.
He looked him up, spoke with him and brought him to see other Christians, vouching for him.
Later, Paul and Barnabas went on a missionary journey together, taking Mark with them. Part of the way there, Mark turned back and went home.
When Paul and Barnabas were about to set out on another such journey, Barnabas proposed taking Mark along and Paul was against it, saying Mark had shown himself undependable.
Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance, and so he and Mark went off on one journey, while Paul took Silas and went on another.
I don’t think there is anyone who couldn’t use a little encouragement on a regular basis.
Very often, it does not take much more than a kind word of concern or telling someone how much they are appreciated to boost their feeling of well-being.
As society puts more distractions before us, encouraging others is becoming a lost art.
Today, we just get too busy to be concerned about the welfare of our fellow human beings and busyness becomes an excuse for neglecting them.
Encouragement goes a long way in boosting the spirits of a discouraged friend or family member who just needs to know someone is there for them.
I am sure each of us can remember someone who had a great impact on us because of their encouragement of us.
On this feast day of St Barnabas, why not give a little encouragement?
It will be appreciated.