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It was late. The wintry sun had long since disappeared for its well-earned rest, while the full moon had started her journey across the night sky, peeking over the mountaintops in the distance. The lights in my office cast a warm beam on the snowy landscape outside. Across the way, through the bony fingers of leafless trees, I saw the lights of the hospital twinkling. I hoped that my patients would rest quietly, soaking in the moon’s healing power on this beautiful night.

I often worked late. I cared deeply about my patients and spent the last hour of each day checking their lab results and progress reports before preparing for those I would see the next day.

Happy that all was complete, and ready for the morning, I packed my bags. Grabbing my coat from behind the door, I headed for the main lobby and made the short walk to the parking garage. I was excited to get home to my wife and young children. Passing through the door into the cold garage, I saw the kind face of Andreas*. He was the security guard who watched over the main entrance through the dark and lonely nights.

Tonight, his eyes sparkled.

I stopped to greet him and to hear the latest news about his youngest grandchild. Gesturing me to wait, he disappeared into the back office, and I could hear him furiously opening desk drawers. He emerged clutching a well-handled piece of paper and rushed toward me, thrusting the page into my hands.

In the dim light, I read the short paragraph addressed to him. It came from the head of the hospital. It was written in simple, direct language, thanking him for his exemplary contribution to the welfare of our community. It praised him for his unselfish dedication to his unseen vigil, appreciating the many long, dark hours that he spent alone keeping our offices and our patients’ records safe.

As I finished reading, I looked up at his beaming face. I confess that it brought a tear to my tired eyes. Before I turned to walk to my car, I shook his hand. He held my grip and my gaze for a few seconds and in his old, gruff voice said, “You know, Doc, this letter will feed me for years.”

In our brief exchange, two dedicated, hard-working colleagues doing their best to make the world a better place had shared a profound truth. Andreas’ colorful expression had crisply captured for me the immense power of affirmation. It remains at the core of all my teaching and coaching. It’s a simple, natural way to unlock the very best in ourselves and each other.

So, whether you write a short note or take a few extra moments to say a simple “thank you,” remember that you can feed another’s soul in the best possible way through the power of affirmation.

*Names changed to protect privacy.