“Words of comfort, skillfully administered, are the oldest therapy known to man.” Louis Nizer

We’ve all been there. Staring at a card to send someone and the words just won’t come to you. Well, I may have just the solution for you. A new book from Bethany House called A Perfect Word for Every Occasion by Liz Duckworth hit our shelves last week. This a wonderful resource to help prime the pump or to give you just the word you’ve been looking for. The book is divided into ten chapters which include words for grieving, words of gratitude, words for the sick and suffering, words for birthdays, words for weddings and engagements, words of encouragement, words for celebrations, words for events and activities, words of truth and love and words for a changing world. That’s a pretty impressive list.

Each chapter also includes a segment called “Aunt Me-me’s Guide to What Not to Say.” Aunt Me-me is a fictional character who is very “sweet, outgoing, generous, and spontaneous. Maybe a little too spontaneous. She serves a useful purpose in this book by illustrating the wrong turns we all want to avoid while reaching out to others. Without intending to, any of us can be Aunt Me-me at one time or another. In wanting to help, we unintentionally give the wrong message, one of insensitivity or uncaring.” (25) So for example at the loss of a loved one Aunt Me-me might be heard to say “It’s for the best.” Not only does Liz provide some things to say or write but she also includes “What Others Say: Quotes Worth Sharing.” I took one of these in a recent post which came from James M. Barrie, “God gave us memories so that we might have roses in December.” (26) And there are of course Scriptures provided to go with each occasion.

But the book offers more than just random quotes. Liz actually helps you work your way to making your wording personal. In the chapter on “Words for the Sick and Suffering” she writes, “Just don’t lean on clichés or pat answers to send your message. Be personal. Be real. Be specific.” She then offers some tips to help you begin.

“In your scratch pad, jot down the name of the person you want to encourage or connect with. Write a few sentences or phrases describing what you know about the person’s illness or injury. Before going further, pause and pray for the person. Try to put yourself in your friend or loved one’s situation. Consider answers to the following questions, and write some ideas down in your notebook.

  • What are some possible outcomes for this peson?
  • What is he or she likely experiencing right now?
  • What fears might he or she have?
  • What hopes might he or she have?
  • What hopes do you hold for him or her?
  • How did you pray for this person?

In your answers to the above questions, you may discover phrases and thoughts to include in your note of encouragement.

Sending a card to someone can be such an encouragement or a compliment to their joy. Cards don’t need to just come from grandma–you can send one too. A few months ago we started sending a hand-written card to customers to say “thank you.” The response has been amazing. We realize that people on any given day pass by other stores in order to come and shop with us. While we can’t send all of them a card we can send some of them a thank you. We really do appreciate their business.

I love this book and will probably use it quite often. This would be a great book for any one but in particular I’m thinking how appropriate it would be for a pastor, a church secretary, a small group leader, and a youth pastor.

I leave my reader today with this Irish blessing:

May you always have work for your hands to do.

May your pockets hold always a coin or two.

May the sun shine bright on your windowpane.

May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain.

May the hand of a friend always be near you.

And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

A Perfect Word for Every Occasion by Liz Duckworth is a paperback with 160 pages and sells for $12.99.