I was putting my salt and pepper shakers away on Sunday when some words I heard many years ago popped into my head. They were not life-changing or even that important. So why would I remember them so clearly?

The time was 1967 and I was at a small Bible college. My work assignment was in the kitchen with Mrs. Mac. Now Mrs. Mac was one of those people who took her job very seriously. If you worked in her kitchen and you valued your job, you also took your work seriously. She would meet with all the kitchen staff periodically, maybe twice a month. That included the waitresses for the dining hall. Somewhere in the course of the time we met, we would hear those words that came to my mind on that Sunday.

“Don’t forget to clean the salt and pepper shakers after every meal. They get really sticky and nobody wants a sticky salt shaker.”

Now those words were not for me because I was in charge of washing the gigantic pots and pans in the kitchen. But they stuck. You would think that mentioning this part of the job once or twice would do the trick, but, for some reason, pristine salt and pepper shakers were not on the top of the list of things to remember if you were a young college student. So every time we met, we heard those same words, sometimes as more of a reprimand. In my mind I could see Mrs. Mac late at night, when others were sleeping, walking around the spacious dining hall with bare fingers as she grabbed each shaker, feeling for any hint of grime. I guess it was her pet peeve.

Mrs. Mac is in heaven now, maybe in charge of one of the dining rooms being set up for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. I bet she’d be surprised about what I remember about her. Her life was so much more than what was said in a dining hall meeting. But the point is, that our words, no matter how trivial at the time, can be carved into someone’s brain for years to come. We may think that no one is really paying attention to us. We may forget what comes out of our mouths but probably there’s someone else who doesn’t.

Our words of encouragement can mobilize people we know to take on a challenge that God has given them. Those people can be reassured with our confirmation that we believe in them and are convinced they will do a good work for the Lord. It really doesn’t take that much to inspire young hearts to press forward and take on life with vitality.

Ecclesiastes 9:17 reminds us that “The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.”

You may be like me and wonder if the things you have said or taught were really even heard. There may not be any apparent fruit at this time. But if we remember little things from our past, like the clean salt shakers, surely the words we are saying are making an impact on those who follow us.  I have a feeling we’ll be surprised when we get to heaven and find out the influence our words had on others.