The Importance of Using Your Words
When I was a student in high school and during my freshman year in college, I worked as a floating teacher’s assistant at a private school and daycare. My favorite assignment was to substitute teach for the kindergarten, first, and second grade classes. On one of those rare days as a substitute teacher I was sitting with another kindergarten teacher in the hot Texas sun at recess when a girl came up to us in apparent emotional distress. Her bottom lip was trembling slightly, and her blue eyes were filling with tears. As she saw the look of concern on my face and heard me ask, “What’s wrong?” the flood gates swung wide open. I felt helpless as she sobbed uncontrollably, pointed, pantomimed, and screamed. Was she using sign language? I didn’t have a clue what was wrong. Luckily, the teacher that was with me had been through this before. She looked her in the eye and said bluntly, but not unkindly, “I need you to use your words.” It was magic. The little girl stopped abruptly, wiped her eyes, and said, “Christopher threw rocks at me.” Now that we understood what the problem was, we could comfort the injured, grab the perpetrator, and land him on the time out bench. I have used the magical phrase “Use your words” several times since then with my own children. I believe in the power of using your words.
Words are incredible. I believe one of the best ways to use words is to cheer someone up and make them laugh. Laughter is said to be the best medicine, and there is nothing sweeter than becoming the antidote to someone’s sorrow. There have been many times in my life when someone has done this for me. I was only the fifth student in the history of our high school to make Varsity choir during freshman year. In Varsity Choir we were expected to audition for, and make, at least All-Region Choir each year of high school. Every fall I agonized and practiced tirelessly when these auditions came, but the pressure was too much. I consistently cracked under the stress, literally. When it was my turn to audition my hands would shake uncontrollably, and my heart would practically pound over the accompaniment. I struggled to breath as I sang, and my high notes would often crack without the correct breath support. Senior year auditions came, and my anxiety made its’ annual appearance. This year my choir director was one of the judges in my audition room. After my vocal train wreck, or my audition, he grabbed my arm and pulled me to the side. “What happens to you in these auditions?” he demanded, clearly disappointed. I didn’t make it. I went home heart broken. My last chance was gone, and I felt like a failure. When I got home, I went straight to the backyard to be alone in my misery. I was lying on my back staring up at the stars with tears steaming silently down my face, when I heard the back door creak open. My older sister set an individual sized container of Bluebell Cookies and Cream Ice Cream and an envelope down next to me. She said “I love you”, and went inside. I opened the card. It said something along these lines, “When you’re feeling down, just take a deep breath and imagine a small stream running through a beautiful wood…. and you’re there, slamming someone’s head into that stream over and over again.” I laughed so hard my stomach hurt, and my tears were no longer tears of sadness. Those words that my sister gave me, as morbid as they may sound, healed me.
Words are lyrics to songs, poems, and stories. We use them to communicate, promote, and congratulate. Words cheer on our favorite teams and our favorite people. They have endless power for good, if we choose to use them in that capacity. Our words can uplift and define who we are. They can also define those around us. Words are the verbal building blocks of our lives. I believe in the magic, and power, of words. How are you using your words?