A while back I posted on this topic and this morning it was brought to my attention again.
While I was on my morning run, enjoying some moments strung together without rain or snow, I met up with an older couple, each with their own garbage bag, picking up trash along the river trail. The river trail is my favorite place to run–when I’m not being attacked by big dogs–because it’s serene, lined with green trees and the river on one side, and wildlife from turtles to turkeys to coyotes. When I saw this couple I stopped, took out my ear buds and told them what they were doing was so nice and thank you. They stopped and looked at me, the woman sighed and smiled, her eyes bright. She said:
“That’s the nicest thing you could have ever said to us, is thank you.”
The power of words. How easy it would have been to keep in my own world, listening to my music, being absorbed with me. How many times do we get busy living life that we forget to notice others around us. I know I do. The janitorial staff that comes on shift as I’m leaving the office, the paper delivery boy, the person who has a cart full of items at the grocery store and yet gets in the twenty items or less line and lets me go ahead when s/he sees I only have a few items. How easy it is to scowl that they’re in the wrong line anyway.
What I’ve learned as I travel my journey is that what comes out of my mouth affects the listener as much as the speaker. Not saying thank you to the person in the grocery line leaves my heart hard and burdened, my attitude dark, as self-righteousness grips me. That, in turn, shapes the way I treat others the rest of the day. When I say something kind, regardless of whether or not the person is doing something I perceive as wrong, it makes the person experience joy and it lightens my own heart. It feels good from the depths of my soul to be kind to someone.
When I carried on with the rest of my run after my encounter with the couple, my steps felt lighter, my heart glad, the day brighter.
Whether spoken or written, words carry enormous power. How easy it is to fire off that email or snail mail letter. Or how easy it is to speak something negative or derogatory about someone in the name of defending yourself after they’ve wronged you. I used to tell my kids when they were growing up, “Choose your words carefully. Words are like toothpaste–once it’s out you can’t get it back in the tube no matter how hard you try.”
Those are words I, as an adult, need to remember.
This week as I communicate with others and as I work on my writing, I’m going to work on remembering the power of words. Especially the two seemingly small words that carry great weight–“Thank You.”
And now I’m back to using my words at Camp NaNoWriMo. 🙂
“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” — George Orwell, 1984