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COLUMN — The English teacher and buried treasure

My 10th-grade English teacher, Ms. Comstock, lived and breathed literature, drama, and the theater.

At one time she had been a successful actress. When we studied literature, she encouraged us to read dramatically and act out the parts. Shakespeare came to life under her tutelage.

Ms. Comstock often asked me to assist with drama readings in class. She enthusiastically advised me to consider acting and drama. I was more involved in music but something about acting and reading literature captivated me like nothing else. So, I began taking drama classes and even appeared in a few school plays.

Because of my interest in literature and drama, I signed up in college for a new study area in the speech department called Oral Interpretation of Literature. Today those learned oral Interpretation skills play a major role in reading and interpreting the Bible and shaping my Sunday sermons.

Why am I sharing this story? I had a talent but that talent, that gift, that treasure, remained buried until a teacher offered encouragement. Teachers play a significant role in our education, but they also influence many other aspects of our lives such as ethics, attitude and even our career choice.

All of us have gifts and talents given to us by God, but we don’t always recognize, appreciate or effectively utilize those gifts until someone comes along and offers encouragement. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” (10:23- 24)

To encourage means to inspire or fill another with courage. We hold on to our hope by trusting God and inspiring others with courage. An English teacher offered encouragement by giving me opportunities to utilize hidden talents.

Becoming an encourager is more than speaking in flowery platitudes. To encourage is to inspire another with courage. As an encourager, my role is to inspire others to do far more than they ever imagined. With God’s guidance we can all be encouragers.

1. All of us are born with dreams and talents. Some are encouraged and flourish. Some flourish on their own. Some lack encouragement and continue to bury what God has given them.

2. All of us have opportunities to encourage someone. We use our resources to help others succeed. We can make choices to invest in someone else’s future.

Our lives are full of buried treasure God placed within us. We spend time looking for that treasure, digging it up, and putting it into practice. As we succeed, we become ready, willing and able to encourage others to dig deeper and put their talents, desires, abilities, dreams, values and zillions of wonderful things to good use as they realize the fruition of their own ideas and dreams.

The Bible is loaded with encouragement:

• “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

• “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

• “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

• “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” Romans 15:5

The lesson: “Encourage one another, build each other up, the Lord your God will be with you, the God of all comfort will comfort you in all your troubles so that you can comfort others, and finally, may the God who gives encouragement to you give you the same attitude and mind toward each other.”

We are to dig up whatever potential treasure we have in whatever situation we are in, and then invest and see it grow. The choice is whether we are going to allow fear and bad experiences to keep our potential buried or choose to step out in faith and see that potential turn into reality.

Our next responsibility is to turn around and invest that same energy and talent in the lives of others as a source of encouragement, whether providing financial resources or encouragement or teaching needed to help someone else pursue their dreams and exercise their talents.

An English teacher inspired me to dig deep and find my hidden talents. God continuously gives you opportunities to dig up the buried treasure within you. Then you have the opportunity to encourage others. Your life will never be the same.

As this school year begins, filled with COVID-19 fears and challenges, remember to say a prayer for everyone involved with our education from teachers, administrators and other employees to students, parents and everyone involved in the welfare of our children. These are challenging times. Your prayers and your encouragement can make a difference for our children, for our community and for our world.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.