After a long and wearying day of traveling with our three children (6, 4, and 2), we were anxiously waiting to disembark at our final destination. I couldn’t have been more ready to get off the plane.

All three children had been especially whiny and antsy that day. I was sure everyone around us was desperate to get off, too, after being unwittingly subjected to over an hour of fussing, loud, and animated youngsters.

The stress levels continued to rise in me as the minutes ticked on and the decibels of whining increased. I was poised for someone to turn around and let out an exasperated sigh or give me a very sharp “what-were-you-thinking-bringing-these-unruly-children-on-this-flight?” look.

Just when I was feeling overcome with anxiety, a woman with perfectly coiffed hair and impeccable makeup turned around and looked at me. Here it comes, I thought, fully expecting an ugly look or worse.

Instead, she smiled and said, “Your children have been amazing on the flight. I’m so impressed.”

Truth be told, I sincerely thought she was joking. But no, I quickly realized her comment was completely genuine and heartfelt.

She went on, “Every time I looked back, they were just sitting back there like perfect little adults. I don’t know how you’ve trained them so well to behave like that!”

I’m not sure whether she could sense my stress level and was just trying to encourage me, but regardless, her words meant the world to me. Within minutes, my frustrations melted away.

I looked at my children and smiled. Maybe they weren’t as calm and sweet as I would have liked, but they are just children, they were out of their routine, it had been a long day, and I needed to give them grace.

I sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the remaining few minutes on board and left–all three children in tow–with a spring in my step instead of a heaviness in my heart.

Our words can have a powerful impact–to either encourage or discourage. If the woman had turned back, shot me a disapproving look, and muttered something about my “terrible children,” I would have felt like a complete failure. Instead, her kind words uplifted my spirit when I needed it most.

I hope to follow this woman’s example and pass on warm words of hope and encouragement the next time I see a young mom who is struggling. Who knows? It may just completely change her outlook and attitude as it did mine. One thing is for sure, it will do a lot more good than pointing a finger, giving a ugly look, or criticizing.