“When you said that, it made me feel happy,” a student shyly confided to me after I had spoken with her. I do not remember what I had said, but I do remember her comment. Words are important to me. They are a gift. We may hear “He has a way with words,” or “She has a gift of speaking,” but I am thinking of the gift of words as something given to someone. Words can bless, encourage, comfort, heal, affirm, and support.
A young father at church gave me a gift with his words of affirmation regarding the Sunday school class. A child’s note with “I lik you” is a gift of words. Those words of support, encouragement, and care last a long time. I also need words of correction and guidance, and appreciate when they are given in a spirit of love.
How important our words are! They can bring a big smile or tears. They can encourage and lift up, or they can squash. Words can spur me on or discourage me. Words speak into my life. My administrator listened to my words of concern about a parent evaluation of the teacher. He then gave the gift of words in advice for my response to the parent and then words of caring for me. Some of this gift was admonition and correction, but it was done in an attitude of caring and was helpful. The attitude behind the words or the manner in which they are given can be a part of the gift.
I try to affirm a child after I have corrected them. If I have lectured Keith on his poor handwriting, then I will look for an opportunity to give him positive words and recognize his improved handwriting.
During an art class, one of my students was really enjoying using the sequins. My response when I saw his project was, “Oh, my!” This was hurtful to him, and he cried. This was 14 or so years ago, and I still feel badly about it. I was surprised to see his project, but I should have tempered my reaction and gently said that we weren’t going to use so many sequins. I was given flowers from his wedding, so I think he has forgiven me! We may remember for a long time the words that we are given.
One of our chapel speakers had a feather pillow that he tore open. He had some students scatter the feathers outside all around the school. It wasn’t long until the feathers had all disappeared. He likened this to our words – how easily they spread, and how difficult it is to gather them back in. We may say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This is not true – words can hurt. We talked about this in our class devotions, and how we must be very careful what we say and how we say it. We wrote positive words on popsicle sticks so that we have sticks and words that do not hurt others. We also did a project where we gave each other the gift of words as the children said things that they like about their classmates.
I have saved many “gifts of words” in my Inspiration file. These notes, comments, or stories have been gifts to me. May I speak and write in gifts of words to bless others as well.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21
CONTRIBUTOR: Arlene Birt