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kidsplaying piano"Home on the Range" is a familiar American song that has become something of an unofficial anthem of the American west. Words to the song are adapted from Brewster Higley's original poem:

"Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day."

Since I live in the American west myself, I know something about skies that are not cloudy all day. But I sometimes find myself reflecting on a time when bison roamed the grassy prairie. And though I think I'd like to at least visit where the deer and the antelope play, I know I'd enjoy a place where seldom is heard a discouraging word. I wonder if there is such a place. Or how about somewhere that oft is heard an encouraging word? Can a place like that be found? A place of encouragement?

One man thought he might have found such a place in a bookstore where he waited in line for a guest author to autograph a  copy of his latest novel. An encouraging, elderly woman at the front of the line turned around and said with obvious enthusiasm, “I just have to say – this is the BEST book I've ever read. Why, I couldn't put it down until the very last page.”  

Before anyone could respond, the author glanced up and said, “All right, Mother, that's enough!”

I realize that a mother's praise is a bit on the biased side. Besides, if we're looking for more warm vibes and verbal support, we certainly can't take our mothers with us wherever we go. That said, there is tremendous power in words of encouragement. Power to change lives.

A young Polish boy wanted to play piano, but his teacher told him that his fingers were too stubby and that he would never play well. The boy was advised to try the cornet, but was later told by an expert musician that he did not have the lip to ever be good. Discouraging words.

Then one day he met the great pianist Anton Rubinstein. The famous musician gave this young boy the first bit of musical encouragement he ever received. “Young man,” Rubinstein said, “you might be able to play the piano. In fact, I think you can...if you will practice seven hours a day.”

Seven hours a day might sound daunting. But that was all the boost this boy needed. The great Rubinstein had told him he could do it. He might have to dedicate most of his time to practice, but he could do it. He could be good. After all, Anton Rubinstein said so.

He did practice for many hours every day and his hard work was rewarded. Years later, Jan Paderewski became one of the most famous pianists of his time. An encouraging word carried with it enough power to ignite a young boy’s eager spirit, and the resulting fire of passion burned brightly in the musician's heart for decades.

Your encouraging word, given today, may forever change a receptive life. I wonder who needs to hear it.

Steve Goodier