Last Sunday, my husband, our daughter, and I waited in line for one hour to greet the grieving husband and children of a teacher who I had worked with in Forest City Schools. She was beloved. She was a friend. She was also our daughter’s 5th grade teacher.

When we got to the husband, Wayne, our daughter greeted him after we. When she caught up with us, she was sobbing. Through tears she said, “I told Mr. Johns that Mrs. Johns had saved my life.” She had come from such a bad year the year before. She had a teacher who didn’t understand her and made her life painful. But Maria said she remembered at her first conference, Mrs. Johns said, “Everything [Maria] says is a pearl.” The power of words and the love of a teacher to heal wounds.

This week at our Monday morning staff devotions, I shared that story. I told the staff that we so often forget that the power of unconditional love and acceptance of our students can truly change lives. Our daughter’s life is an example.

One of the great mental health counselors and theorists was Carl Rogers. His premise was that we bestow unconditional love and acceptance on all those we meet and those we counsel. Do you suppose he was thinking of Jesus, who constantly modeled that kind of loving and accepting of everyone He met? Exactly what does it mean to blanket those in our care with that kind of love and encouragement?

It reminds me of the story of the two frogs who fell into a pit when hopping down a path. The other frogs in the group looked down at the two frogs frantically and unsuccessfully trying to hop out of the pit. They shouted at the trapped frogs to just get it over with and die because they were not going to be able to jump out. The frantic frogs continued trying to jump out while the group of frogs above kept telling them to forget it, they were never going to get out. At last, one frog just laid down and died. The other continued to try…jump, jump, jump! Finally, he jumped out!! The group of frogs gathered around and asked, “Didn’t you hear us telling you to get it over with and just lay down and die?” To which the liberated frog replied, “Oh!! That is what you were saying! I am almost completely deaf and I thought you were encouraging me!!” Ah…words are a powerful vehicle. They can give life…or they can take it away.

Remember the frogs…remember Maria when you are with someone who needs encouragement rather than criticism. Remember Karen Johns and Carl Rogers so that you might grant unconditional love to those in your world. Remember Jesus who said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me” (Matthew 25:40).