Most of us most of the time do not recognize the power of our words. One sentence spoken can be permanently carved into another’s psyche. Most of what we speak is lost in the air the moment after the breath behind it evaporates. Usually we never know the impact of what we have spoken has on another person unless they tell us.
When I was seven my father left and my mother sat on a bed at my grandparents with an arm around my brother and I as she told us what had happened. At one point she looked at me through tears and said “You’re now the man of the house. You’re gonna have to take care of your little brother”. She will never know the impact, both positive and negative, that statement had on me. Inside I carry it in bold print and all caps’. My gratitude is for the joy of seeing after my little brother and the wisdom derived from pain. In combination both influences made me stronger and able to withstand much more than if I had not been “weathered” by what began as just a few words.
In my 16th year there was the man who fired me from my first part-time job in a profession that I have now been in for several decades. He said “You have no talent or aptitude for this business. You ought to plan on another line of work. You won’t make it in this one”. His words had the reverse effect of his intention and instead gave me determination to prove him wrong. (PS: He was out of the profession within a few years and ended being a policeman in a small town). I am thankful to that man for having put a fire in my belly and a bellows in my soul so I could “blaze” brightly and prove him wrong.
Within a couple of years I was freshly out of high school and working in my profession when a man I respected told me I had true talent, should pursue a career in the business and there was a bright future ahead. After a couple of years we lost touch. In time he became very well known nationally in our line of work and was often a speaker at conventions. I had the chance to talk to him about 25 years later at a professional gathering. He recognized me right off and was glad to see me. When I reminded him of what he had said and how much it meant to me, he simply didn’t specifically remember saying those words. My response was to tell him that didn’t matter much for I remembered them and they benefited me greatly.
I lost a close friend of 30 years about a year ago who had been in bad health for several years. Yet, his passing came much sooner than expected. Four days before he died my cell phone rang and B.’s name was caller ID’ed on my screen. I answered and in a weak voice he said “how you doing Brother?” We were not family but we were closer than most relatives are. He continued “I just wanted to call and hear your voice and tell you that I love you”. I replied “I love you too B. how are you doing?” His response was “I’m not doing very good. I don’t have energy to do anything anymore. Even getting to the bathroom is an F’ing chore anymore”. I began to respond, but he interrupted by saying “I gotta go. I’m feeling very tired”. What came out of my mouth was “Ok, talk to you soon B. Take care”. “You too” was his response. And those were the last words we ever exchanged. I know in my heart he called to say good bye and today know what a great gift his goodbye to me is. Writing them now I feel the deep emotion I always get when I think of what he said and remember him.
The power of my words goes so far beyond what I can perceive. Further, I will rarely ever know who I touched with what I expressed or exactly which segment of words will be remembered. With much reverence for their value, I can certainly tell you about those valuable and special words spoken to me that I keep in my treasure box of my life experience. I am so grateful for those priceless bits people gifted me with. Beyond what they will ever know, my life was in part shaped by the words they shared with me. I hope some where, some how there are things I have spoken to others that have been deemed worthy of being treasured in a like fashion in their keepsakes of life.
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. William James