Words

They walk and talk- and it is getting so dark outside. The snow whirls around them in a vortex of ragged wind from the north-east as they trudge through the shin-high drifts and try to make their way. But it is rough going. The trail they have carved out is more like a cow-path than anything when they finally make their last turn for home. She stumbles but catches herself from falling.
They press on.
She listens as he talks. And she tries to make sense out of all the trouble- tries to find a way for them both. He turns to her and tells her that she has made him feel better and she hugs him and tells him that was the plan. She wants to help. She cares.
But sometimes words fail to convey that care. Fail to explain, describe, clarify, enlighten. And sometimes even, words hurt: inflict, wound, injure and impair. Leaving the other to try and piece together the remains into something that makes sense.
Life is hard and people are the ones that know this reality the most. Words are sometimes all we’ve got to stake our pride.
And one doesn’t have to look far to find hurting people in need of a word of comfort. In need of a kind gesture, a simple encouragement.
So what does the girl do when she has gazed inside the glass and all she sees is a tunnel of darkness? Pitch black nothingness. An unknown abyss that appears to be bottomless, with no way out?
And what does the boy say when he is faced with the news, given the verdict, read the riot act and there is no happy ending in view?
What do men and women do when life turns sour, when it all turns belly up? When health fails, relationships strain and doom is pending?
What do people do when life gets hard?
Where do we go for help? By Whom are our cries heard?
We wait for resolution with our fragile sense of uncertainty, each and every day. Wondering, guessing, hoping: and then, our expectations are found deflating. Because there is not always an answer that immediately comes to mind. Not always words. Not always an explanation that rises quickly to the occasion, announcing its arrival. Sometimes answers are hard to come by, making both life hard and understanding it to boot seem nearly impossible.
Life is hard- and figuring it all out even harder.
The mystery leads us to the discovery.
The discovery that God gave us people to help us out. Gave us one another- each other, for a reason. To stand in the gap. To bear witness. To hold space. To uphold and sustain one another through the hard times. God gave us ‘each other’ to be that support, that advocate for one another. To sustain one another. And when we do this for the others in our lives, that is encourage one another- even through the hardest of times, we come to realize that we can carry on. There is strength. Hope. And we can make our way through to the other side.

The light shines from the pathway lanterns and together they walk the narrow route toward home. Winds howl and snow eddies tug at their jackets. But these are no match for them. There is no contest.

They got each other- and that is enough.

Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Advertisements

To those who’ve been shamed, let me be the one to say…

“You’ll never amount to anything. You’ll never be much. You’re a problem child.”

So he was told.

I had forgotten, but she reminded me yet again as we were talking: about the cruelty of  words and how shattering they can be when ill-spoken. When hastily proffered. When handed over without any thought or consideration to the receiver.

And how excruciating when those words are held out to a child, a teenager: as evidence of their failings, flaws and weaknesses. As evidence of their shortcomings. When spoken as a statement to their individual worth. A testimony, if you will: to their person-hood. And when these words of shame are spoken by a teacher, no less: the damage they inflict is often irreparable.

“You’ll never amount to anything. You’ll never be much. You’re a problem child.”

Those words- they have still, at times, been spoken.

And he’ll never forget those words, no matter how much time and space come between. She’ll always remember. For they are there. Forever imprinted in his memory. In her memory. Impressed on his subconscious and thus filtered in and out through his more aware consciousness in the here and now. She’s trouble- or so she thinks; and so she’ll spend the rest of her days either seeking to live up to that reputation or finding a way to prove them wrong.

It’s how the story goes.

And to those students dealing with their own insecurities, anxieties and fears about who they are and what they might become, this is either a death sentence or a fire lit beneath them. A motivation or a deterrent.  It’s pivotal.

This piece of writing I’ve composed: it is not a reprimand to students- goodness knows there are enough of those out there to fill a book. This is a reminder to those of us as teachers to choose our words carefully before we speak them. We can never get those words back again. This is a memo to those of us who educate: to watch our collective tongues. Carefully. To form our opinions with awareness to those around us. To say what needs to be said, but to do so respectfully. With dignity. In honor of the life that stands before us.  For all life is worth that at the very least. Is worth a semblance of regard, out of respect, if nothing else, to the person and all those others they represent. The parents, family and friends. A person is not an island. And words have a ripple effect. Do not think they will fall like a stone to the bottom of the ocean. They will be carried away on the waters and they will oft be repeated. And never forgotten. Do not offer words without thought to what message those words are truly conveying. Words can have more than one meaning. And what we think we are saying lightly can be taken heavily by the hearer.  And buried deep within.

This is a message to we who are adults- we are the forerunners. We have been there before. We know the pain of derision, the wound that is a sarcastic comment spoken in scorn. We remember. And so, we who know better must live better. We must watch what we say and say it with care. There are others listening. Believing what we say. Taking it to heart.  Living up to it, those words.

“You’ll never amount to anything. You’ll never be much. You’re a problem child.”

To that one who has had these words flung in your direction, let me be one to stand up and boldly say:

You are more than the sum of one man or woman’s opinion. You are more than one person’s point of view. You are capable. You are able. You are competent. You don’t have to live down, stoop low to anyone’s minimal expectations of who they think you’ve been destined to be. Prove them wrong. Be more. Do more. Live for more. Aim higher, reach farther. Be inspired to make the change you need to make so as to become the person you were born to be. It’s in you.
You can do this. Be the person you were made to be. The sky’s the limit. And you’re full of potential and possibility.

You’re amazing, I know you are.

Believe it.

I do.