They lived across the street from us in a suburban neighborhood of split-level homes. One night we heard a knock at the door. The three children, two boys and a girl, had been kicked out of their home by their stepfather.

My husband Wayne and I took them in for the night. I sensed fear in the 8-year-old girl and enormous anger in her older brothers. We took the kids to church regularly, a church plant we led in a local elementary school. There they were welcomed and loved. There were Sundays when their stepfather would not let them attend, but apart from that they were regular attendees.

One Sunday morning I assigned parts to children for our Christmas program. I selected the children for the manger scene and turned to 8-year-old Sherry. “I think you would play the part of Mary really well. Would you like to do that?” Sherry immediately said yes.

After rehearsals that are always chaotic, the program went without a hitch. Sherry rode with me to church. On the way back I told her how lovely she looked in her blue scarf and white robe and that she was the perfect Mary. I could feel her smile beside me. She was hesitant to exit my car that night, undoubtedly experiencing love, calm, and acceptance as a result of the play.

Fast forward 40 years. I connected with Sherry a couple years ago. Her life had taken some painful zigs and zags, even into her adult life. Yet she had never forgotten what she learned as a child in church.

At one point, she found her way back to the same church, now obviously an established one. Her testimony is powerful.

“Remember when you asked me to be Mary in the Christmas play?” Sherry asked. I nodded yes. “Well, that was the most significant thing that happened to me in my life. I felt so honored and valued that night and those feelings stayed with me the rest of my life even in the hard times. I would go back to that night and know I had worth.”

I could not hold back the tears at her admission.

This Christmas season, any act of kindness, word of encouragement, spoken word, or recognition could impact someone like Sherry. All it takes is to listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to say or do something that could change someone’s life.