by Jo Ann Larsen
Larry and Jo Ann were an ordinary couple. They lived in an ordinary house on an ordinary street. Like any other ordinary couple, they struggled to make ends meet and to do the right things for their children. They were ordinary in yet another way—they had their squabbles.
Much of their conversation concerned what was wrong in their marriage and who was to blame—until one day when a most extraordinary event took place.
“You know, Jo Ann, I’ve got a magic chest of drawers. Every time I open the drawers, they’re full of socks and underwear,” Larry said. “I want to thank you for filling them all these years.”
Jo Ann stared at her husband over the top of her glasses. “What do you want, Larry?”
“Nothing. I just want you to know I appreciate those magic drawers.”
This wasn’t the first time Larry had done something odd, so Jo Ann pushed the incident out of her mind until a few days later.
“Jo Ann, thank you for recording so many correct check numbers in the ledger this month. You put down the right numbers fifteen out of sixteen times. That’s a record.”
Disbelieving what she had heard, Jo Ann looked up from her mending. “Larry, you’re always complaining about my recording the wrong check numbers. Why stop now?”
“No reason. I just wanted you to know I appreciate the effort you’re making.”
Jo Ann shook her head and went back to her mending. “What’s gotten into him?” she mumbled to herself.
Nevertheless, the next day when Jo Ann wrote a check at the grocery store, she glanced at her checkbook to confirm that she had put down the right check number. “Why do I suddenly care about those dumb check numbers?” she asked herself.
She tried to disregard the incident, but Larry’s strange behavior intensified.
“Jo Ann, that was a great dinner,” he said one evening. “I appreciate all your effort. Why, in the past fifteen years I’ll bet you’ve fixed over 14,000 meals for me and the kids.”
Then, “Gee, Jo Ann, the house looks spiffy. You’ve really worked hard to get it looking so good.” And even, “Thanks, Jo Ann, for just being you. I really enjoy your company.”
Jo Ann was growing worried. Where’s the sarcasm, the criticism? she wondered.
Her fears that something peculiar was happening to her husband were confirmed by sixteen‐year‐old Shelly, who complained, “Dad’s gone bonkers, Mom. He just told me I looked nice. Even though I’m wearing all this makeup and these sloppy clothes, he still said it. That’s not Dad, Mom. What’s wrong with him?”
Whatever was wrong, Larry didn’t get over it. Day in and day out he continued focusing on the positive.
Over the weeks, Jo Ann grew more accustomed to her mate’s unusual behavior and occasionally even gave him a grudging “Thank you.” She prided herself on taking it all in stride, until one day something so peculiar happened that she became completely discombobulated.
“I want you to take a break,” Larry said. “I am going to do the dishes. So please take your hands off that frying pan and leave the kitchen.” (Long, long pause.) “Thank you, Larry. Thank you very much!”
Jo Ann’s step was now a little lighter, her self‐confidence higher, and once in a while she hummed. She didn’t seem to have as many blue moods anymore. I rather like Larry’s new behavior, she thought.
That would be the end of the story except one day another most extraordinary event took place. This time it was Jo Ann who spoke.
“Larry,” she said, “I want to thank you for going to work and providing for us all these years. I don’t think I’ve ever told you how much I appreciate it.”
No matter how hard Jo Ann has pushed for an answer, Larry has never revealed the reason for his dramatic change of behavior, and so it will likely remain one of life’s mysteries. But it’s one I’m thankful to live with.
You see, I am Jo Ann.
As Larry demonstrated, a little encouragement can transform a marriage. None of us—king or queen, president or business leader, husband, housewife or child—is without the human craving for appreciation. Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” A kind word is like that. It fuels our energy and infuses us with new enthusiasm for facing the challenges life throws our way.
I invite you during this week’s discussion to consider the incredible power of encouragement. As you apply each principle, I think you’ll find that the sun shines a little brighter and your day runs a bit smoother. You might begin by simply telling your partner how much you appreciate having him or her around.
- James C Dobson