The Paperclip Award

220px-One_red_paperclipThe paperclip is only thought of when nothing else will do. Years ago we awarded one person each year The Paperclip Award, a paperclip. The award criteria was simple. A paperclip was a person who, though often in the background, could always be counted on for just the right word or act of encouragement at just the right time.

I don’t think we realize just how much and how often people need a paperclip – they need encouragement. There is never a lack of people around us who seem to delight in offering despair!  But a good encourager is hard to find.

Even in the best of times life can be overwhelming and living in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic for over a year now is hardly the best of times. It is easy to despair of making a difference and to lose hope.  It is easy to become so self-absorbed with our own needs that we forget to think about what other people need.  I don’t think we realize just how much some people struggle to get through each day.  People need encouragement to make it – they need a paperclip!

In his book Winning Life’s Toughest Battles Dr. Julius Segal quotes a report from the National Institute of Mental Health that says

“Many of our daily conversations are actually mutual counseling sessions whereby we exchange reassurance and advice that help us deal with routine stresses.”

We all need our hearts uplifted.  We all need hope and encouragement.  Paperclips make it their purpose to offer encouragement and hope to others; it drives them.  How different would our relationships be if being encouraging was our motivation?

Author Muriel Anderson says that four of the most important words in her life are “Of course you can.” She says that her father always knew how to say those words at exactly the right time.  She had a dream of being a writer and had begun to try her hand at writing articles, hoping maybe the local newspaper would publish them.  She was thinking of all reasons why it couldn’t, and probably wouldn’t happen.  She was young and inexperienced; the local paper was on a tight budget; they rarely bought freelance material.  She told her father, “I doubt I can get this article published.” He said, “Of course you can.” And she did — this is what launched her career as a writer.

Those simple words from her father were enough to encourage her to keep trying. Her father was her paperclip!

Being a paperclip really is that simple. Look for ways you can encourage people.  Chances are there is someone close to you who needs a good word from you. Maybe it’s your “significant other” or a friend or a someone at work or a classmate.  Start thinking: “How can I be their paperclip?

  • As a parent I can tell you that no matter how old you are (I’m as old as dirt!) your parents need a paperclip every now and then.
  • As a son I can tell you that no matter how old you are your children need a paperclip every now and then.
  • As a brother I can tell you that no matter how old you are your siblings need a paperclip every now and then.
  • As a husband I can tell you that no matter how old you are your spouse needs a paperclip every now and then.

Adopt the paperclip motto of Mother Teresa, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”

The paperclip. When you need to bind pages of paper together nothing else will do. Most of the time the paperclip sets on the desk or hides in a drawer, ignored until needed. But when needed it never disappoints.

And The Paperclip Award in your life goes to…

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