THE POWER OF WORDS
This past Halloween, I took my four year old cousin and five year old grandson trick or treating around the neighborhood. On our way home, cousin Johnny thrust his candy-laden bag in my direction and said, “You have to carry this home for me. It’s too heavy for me to carry because I have a hernia.” I knew that his grandfather had just undergone hernia surgery and I laughed all the way home at how that little stinker had figured out that mentioning the word “hernia” was a great way to get out of carrying anything heavy.
Later that evening, I asked my grandson, Vincent, to pick up the pieces of his costume that were strewn throughout the living room floor. He threw his hand to his forehead dramatically and answered, “Not now, Grandmom, I have a headache from all the stress!”
I didn’t think this remark was nearly as funny. It’s one thing to laugh at a kid imitating someone else, quite another to realize that I was the adult being imitated. How many times had I said those very words to him when I was too frazzled to play with him.
I have always believed that words have power. Yes, those sounds that emerge through our lips without a second thought have the power to make a day or ruin a life. However, until that Halloween experience, I had allowed myself to forget how much more mindful of my words I needed to be when speaking to a child or even around one. I have often been amazed at the way a child can be totally engrossed in a game or cartoon and yet hear every word I’ve whispered in another room. The sponge-like minds of kids absorb so much of what they see and hear. Unfortunately, they do not have the ability to discern which of the retained information will serve them in life and which will simply become a negative belief or habit.
As an adult, I still struggle with the careless verbal judgments about my appearance or my abilities that left permanent gashes in my self-esteem as a child. I still fight to rid myself of the prejudices and bleak views of life that I inherited from the grownups I believed knew everything.
What an awesome opportunity and responsibility I have to help mold those precious and impressionable little pieces of clay that have been sent into my life. I believe I have the power in my hands, or should I say in my tongue, to assist in the creation of happy, confident and tolerant adults of tomorrow. With nothing more than the power of words, I can do my share in shaping a generation that will cherish themselves, each other and their planet.
Sometimes I’m still too busy to play with my grandson but I carefully avoid words like “headache” and “stress” when I explain why to him. I want the words Vincent learns from his Grandmom to be words that will empower and encourage him when he’s a man.
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