Posted by: Bonnie Phelps | December 15, 2012

The Power of Encouragement – from Peggy

After the tragic news from Connecticut yesterday, Peggy Hamerly’s posting on Facebook was so meaningful.  Many of you know Jim and Peggy as weekenders on Palomar.  You might have friends to share her beautiful message with also:
The Power of Encouragement
by Peggy McCauley Hamerly on Friday, December 14, 2012 at 7:05pm ·
I was trying to make sense of this tragic shooting in Connecticut today, but just can’t. We all feel so devastated and so powerless. I was praying for the families and a thought came to mind about something positive that we can each do every day that might prevent things like this. What if we made a point to speak words of encouragement and blessing into people’s lives every day – especially those who seem downtrodden or disenfranchised? Just a smile and a greeting can help some lonely person know that someone else noticed them and cared enough to acknowledge them.

We all encounter people like that every day. I remember one day when I got called to substitute at our alternative high school. It was filled with kids who mostly hated school, were labeled as “troubled,” and were discipline problems. My morning class was all boys, most of them way bigger and way taller than I was. My first inclination was to escape! But, being a mature adult :), I decided to take a deep breath, say a little prayer for wisdom, and take roll very slowly while I surveyed the class. This was not a group that I could order to sit down and be quiet. I let them find their seats and decided to have a little personal visit with each one. As I circulated around the room, I asked a lot of questions and did a lot of listening. When they told me how they hated school, I empathized with their feelings but encouraged them to just get through it. After about 20 minutes, every student was working quietly and the atmosphere in the room was decidedly different than it had been.

One boy was programming ring tones on his phone. When I sat down with him, I said, “You’re a musician, aren’t you?” He said, “Yeah. How did you know?” I asked him what he was supposed to be working on. He said, “English” and that he hated it.  I asked him if he ever wrote songs. He perked up. He told me he wrote both lyrics and music. I told him that I was a songwriter too and pulled out a notebook to show him. I showed him a song that I had written at a time when I was having a lot of difficulty with one of my daughters. It was a mother’s prayer for her wayward daughter to come home. He started to tear up and pulled out his notebook. It was filled with songs and poems that he had written over several years. He wanted me to read the lyrics to a song that was a little boy’s cry for his mother, who had abandoned him at age 4, to come home, read him a story, and tuck him in for the night. As I read it, we both sat there and cried together. This boy who hated English was a writer! His grammar needed a little cleaning up, but he loved to write and was full of feelings and ideas that needed to be expressed. He said that he wanted to be a writer when he grew up. I told him that he was already a writer, encouraged him to keep writing, and to save that notebook forever, that it was a precious memento of his life.

When that day ended, every one of those tough kids said thank you when they left. They asked if I could come back the next day. Unfortunately, it was only a one-day assignment, but it will always be one of my most memorable days of teaching. It was just the power of a kind word of encouragement for each kid that defused all the initial tension and hostility in that room and turned it into a positive, productive day. Love and encouragement are powerful weapons in a dark world. Big electronic hugs to each of you on this sad day.


  1. This is what America needs !!
    Psychology and the power of our voices to keep these people from shooting innocent people. You hit the nail on the head with your beautiful story !!
    Thanks for sharing

  2. Oh, my gosh! That story was so beautiful, it made me tear up just reading it. Thank you for sharing, Peggy. How I wish we all could find a way to learn how to connect with people and show compassion and encouragement. Keep teaching Peggy!

  3. Wow!
    Thank you Peggy for that inspirational experience. I’m sure you have guided many lives onto a prosperous path. Thank you for being a true teacher (or more of a life guide).

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