Words matter. I have always known this but so often forget before I speak or before I listen. Some of my deepest hurts in life have come from the words of another. I have trouble remembering what my work email password is over summer break but I remember vividly the person, tone, location, and time from which the words that hurt me come from. If I allow myself I can feel the pain I felt in some of those very moments. Those memories fade with more effort than many other things my brain processes.
Words can also bring you joy and comfort. They can lift you up, make you see things in a different light. They can connect you to a complete stranger and can erase negative thoughts you might be having about yourself. Words are powerful and words matter.
I gave myself complete permission to be lazy today. Take my time unpacking and doing my vacation laundry. There were a few errands I wanted to run but nothing was pressing or something that needed to be done today. I made a stop at the post office to pick up my mail. It was a last minute decision to make the turn into the parking lot, I had tried to talk myself out of it.
“You can go another time.”
“it’s mostly junk anyway.”
“It’s only been a week and a half.”
Thankfully I pushed those thoughts away. I mean seriously Anita you have two minutes to pull over and run in. How lazy are you? I walked at my usual rapid pace as if on a mission. Get in and get out. That was the plan, not because I had somewhere to be but because I often am in a hurry when I really have no reason to be. I was the only car in the parking lot, but as I began to walk across the sidewalk I noticed another vehicle out of the corner of my eye. I thought nothing of it. No thought about who was in the car or any realization that this encounter may be important, it may matter.
I was sorting through my mail, recycling the junk and making sure there wasn’t anything that needed my immediate attention. I admit I was startled by the little old lady that quickly approached me. She loudly struck up a conversation about voting and the heat outside. Could I believe it was 100 degrees again today? So many days in a row, she couldn’t remember the last time it was that many days in a row. I was polite and smiled, nodded, laughed. But I was in a hurry……for no reason. We walked out of the post office together. She was sweet and upbeat, a little of a spit fire I remember thinking but just a stranger. A nice stranger.
As we walked out the door she turned and grabbed my hand. Turning and looking in my eyes she smiled from ear to ear. She said “you’re just a baby.” This may have been the first time in a long time I haven’t hesitated when asked my age. I trusted her and had a feeling she was going to tell me something important. We spoke briefly about her daughter who died when she was 19. She didn’t speak with pain but with joy. Remembering her daughter brought her joy in that moment.
By this time she had both of her hands around my left hand. A sweet and comforting grasp that didn’t seem at all intrusive or unwelcome. Already feeling blessed by our meeting I was unprepared for what came next.
She said “I need to tell you something.” “You my darling are beautiful, you are stunning. You have a wonderful personality and I am so happy I met you today.” She ended with “God bless you and have a fabulous day.” I wrapped my arms around her and gave her a giant hug, yes I hugged a complete stranger. As I walked away my day was changed.
It wasn’t that she said I was beautiful that stuck with me, although that is always nice to hear, it was that she took the time to say what she was thinking, to share what was on her mind. She took the time to bless me. I am sure she has done this over and over again. I am guessing that many have walked away from her feeling blessed.
My least favorite saying EVER is “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” In my opinion it is one of the worst lies we often teach our children. Words can hurt and it’s okay that they hurt. I think if we truly understand and believe that words can and do hurt we may be more likely to think about what we say before we say it. I try to be careful not to hurt with my words but how often do I try to bless or bring joy with my words?
As I drove away I thought, “what if I put that much thought into all my random encounters?” What if I took the time in the grocery store to tell the busy mom that her children were polite? What if I took the moment to compliment the lady in line in front of me when I notice her kind and gentle spirit? How could I change someones day for the better with the words I say. What if I slow down my pace so I can make eye contact with the tired and ragged individual I pass in the hall? What if I really listen when I ask someone how their day was? What if I took the time to tell each student everyday just how fabulous I think they are? That sweet old lady and I will probably never cross paths again. She took the time today to make our encounter matter. What if I was intentional about making my encounters matter?
What if I remember my words matter……..my words are powerful?
Lord it’s in your hands!