At the age of 11 Cheryl Prewitt was in a horrific car accident. Doctors said she would be physically scarred for life and probably never walk again. She miraculously recovered. Fast forward to Sept. 9, 1979, Cheryl was at a press conference the day after winning the 1980 Miss America Pageant. A reporter asked her, “Who do you give credit to for winning the Miss America pageant?” Without hesitation she replied, “The milkman!” The reporters were not sure how to react. Should they laugh, gasp or ask a follow-up question? Was she joking or serious?

Cheryl broke the silence and shared the rest of the story. Her dad owned a small grocery store in rural Mississippi. One day she was at the store when the milkman stopped by. He was warm and cheerful. As he walked by her, he patted her on the head and said, “How is my little Miss America?” After several interactions with him, Cheryl began adjusting her schedule so she would be at the store when he came by. Without fail he would stop, look at her and say, “How Is my little Miss America doing today?”

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Cheryl said his words helped her battle her way back from that car accident stating, “The milkman always called me Miss America, so I grew up assuming that someday I would be Miss America!” Eventually, his words became a reality.

There once was a milkman who saw his job was more than delivering milk. He realized that his opportunity to influence the world started with the words he deposited in the minds and hearts of others. He intentionally paused long enough to invest his time and his words wisely. And those words changed a little girl’s life forever.

I heard that story 20 years ago and it stuck with me. It inspired me to look for opportunities to invest my words for positive impact. Our words can go viral to bless and build up people or to blast and break the hearts of others. Our words can be used to encourage, bring strength, bring hope, inspire dreams and growth in people. Or our words can be used to hurt, distract and discourage people. Our words can give life to others, or they can knock the wind out of people.

How careful are you with your words? How much building are you doing? Could it be that during this pandemic we have additional time to write a note, send a text, make a phone call to bless, bring hope and encouragement to someone?

In the Bible, the book of Proverbs is full of wise, Godly tips for healthy living. There are many verses in Proverbs about our words. Proverbs 12:18 “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 15:4, “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 18:21 gives us great reason to pause and truly evaluate our words. It reads, “The tongue has the power of life and death….”

Life and death? The tongue? Yes, it is true. No question, we are in a difficult storm that will last longer than we want. The more difficult the days, the more important the words we deposit in those around us.