Fred Craddock tells of the time he and his wife slipped away to the mountains for a few days of relaxation. As they sat in a little restaurant, they saw a man going from table to table greeting diners. Eventually he made his way to the Craddock's table and, learning that Fred was a minister, he insisted on telling them his story.

The man said he had been born just a few miles from that spot, across the mountain. His mother had not been married when he was born, and the criticism directed at her also hit him. His schoolmates learned from their parents how to ridicule, and the boy learned to stay to himself at lunch and recess, lest their insults strike too hard. Even more difficult were trips to town with his mother when he could feel the looks and the shaking of heads, and he heard the question, "I wonder who his father is?"

When he was about twelve, a new pastor came to the little community church. People talked about his skill as a preacher, and the boy began to go hear for himself. He was fascinated by the preacher, but he was always careful to slip in late, sit in the back and leave early, lest someone catch him and ask, "What's a boy like you doing here?"

One Sunday, though, he was so caught up in the service that he forgot to slip out before it was over. Suddenly he felt a big hand on his shoulder, and as he turned around he saw the face of that preacher. The preacher said, "Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?" His young heart sank at the question, but then the preacher went on: "Wait a minute. I know who you are. The family resemblance is unmistakable. You are a child of God!" With that he patted the boy on the back and added, "Boy, that's quite an inheritance. Go and claim it."

As the boy changed to manhood, in that restaurant the old man said to Fred and his wife, "That one statement literally changed my whole life." He explained that his name was Ben Hooper and he had twice been elected governor of the state of Tennessee. His had been a successful and respected life, made possible by a small-town minister who cared enough to encourage a little boy.

Are there some Ben Hoopers in your life? Is there someone who thinks life has little in store for them, but whose lives can be transformed by your encouragement?