A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops.

Henry Adams

I have coached hundreds of kids throughout the years, but one little girl still stands out in my memory. She was a third grader whom I will call "Mary". Mary did not have a Dad around and did not have a great deal of self-esteem. I never knew how important everyday kindness affected people until Mary had to move at the end of the season.

She had mentioned that she had a birthday coming up so we got her something small (I think it was maybe a card and a candy bar) but you would have thought we had given her a pony by the way she reacted. She was just so sweet and kept expressing her thanks, over and over.

A few weeks later she and her Mom stopped by the house. They were moving and Mary would not leave town until she got to say goodbye to her "coach". Needless to say that I was somewhat flabbergasted that this was so important to her. We saw Mary and her Mom some time later and she brought up again the time that we had remembered her birthday - it was clearly a really big deal to this precious little girl.

Though this took place over ten years ago, I still think about Mary. I have tried to put my finger on just what made such an impression on this eight year old. While I'm still not sure what it was - I guess I will never know exactly - I think maybe that a part of it was this: She had no father in her life, so any attention given was attention that she was literally starving for.

To you and me, encouraging others is just part of everyday courtesy but to Mary, it was a highlight. Further, for someone to remember her birthday was so out of the ordinary that a card and a candy bar were something remarkable to her. It took me a long time to understand this, but it gave me a renewed determination to never coach a child without some daily word of encouragement.

So how about you? Do you have a "Mary" in your life that is starving for a word of praise or small act of kindness? I'll bet that you do and you have the power to transform their life - even if for only a moment - if you will but take the time. We all touch someone's life, in some small way. How will you touch the lives of those you know today?

And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.

Matthew 10:42, NIV