Barbara Glanz trained 3,000 front-line workers at grocery stores and retail outlets, teaching how ‘word-power’ and what you say makes a difference in people’s lives. Shortly after, Barbara got a call from one of the trainees ‘Johnny’, “I’m 19 years old, have Downs Syndrome & work as a bagger in a grocery store. I liked your talk but didn’t know what to do with it, so my dad and I got thinking. Each day we come up with an affirming & encouraging statement. If I can’t find one in my quote book, I’ll make it up. We type it up six different times and I print off 50 sheets and cut all of them out.”
Every night, Johnny signs each marvellous message personally and, instore next day, puts the stack beside where he bags the groceries. In everyone’s last bag he adds the encouraging word & quote of the day. Looking everyone in the eye he says, “I put something very special for you in this bag. I hope it brightens your day.”
After a month Barbara got a phone call from that grocery store’s manager, “Barbara I can’t believe it. Something amazing is happening. Walking around the store I noticed, while we had lots of checkers at the checkout line, they only had a few people, but Johnny’s line went all the way back to the frozen food section. Over the intercom I’d ask people to move over to the other lines. We’d walk down the line and tell people there were other lines open. People just looked at us and said, “No, we’ll wait, we want Johnny’s encouraging word for the day.”
One woman grabbed the supervisor & said, “I used to come to this store once a week or every other week. Now I come almost every day to buy something to get Johnny’s encouraging word for the day.”
The store manager called Barbara again, “It’s changing our entire store culture. Even in the floral department when a flower is broken they don’t just throw it away as before. Now they walk to the lines & pin it onto seniorcitizens or wee ones to brighten their day. Listen, there are a lot of key people in this store but now the most important person is Johnny, the bagger. He’s speaking words of life and words of life can change a culture. It can change a group of people.”
In James chapter 3, we’re warned of the dangers of using our tongue to tear down rather than build up. As Steve Malone suggests, ‘Perhaps a harsh tongue betrays an angry heart; a negative tongue – a fearful heart; an overactive tongue – an unsettled heart; a boasting tongue – an insecure heart; a filthy tongue – an impure heart; a constantly critical tongue – a bitter heart.
On the other hand, perhaps a person: who is always encouraging has a happy heart; who speaks gently has a loving heart; who speaks truthfully has an honest heart, etc.’
Friends, God is in the business of transforming hearts with His Love in Jesus. If ‘Johnny’ can happen in a store he can appear in a church, home, workplace, school, college campus, street, neighbourhood, community & town, through me & you! Daily, will you join me in asking God to cleanse & clear our hearts of negativity and use us as channels of his kindness, care & generosity? Dear God, “Use my tongue, thumbs & fingers to speak words of life into other people’s lives?” ‘Go Johnny, Go, Go, Go!’