Words As Stones and Seeds
Whoever started the whole “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” thing was sorely mistaken. In fact, words can do far more damage than physical blows, especially if they’re delivered by someone we care about and trust. In his thought-provoking book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum wrote: “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts.” Vicious and hurtful words bury deep within us and fester like gangrenous wounds to destroy souls.
From elementary school through middle school, I was sort of pudgy—not hugely overweight, but enough so that other kids called me names. One time, a boy who lived across the street told me—without even a morsel of shame—that he’d like me if I wasn’t so fat. I was just eight years old, but I’ve never forgotten that boy’s name or what he said. I suppose the fact that I had a huge crush on him only made it worse.
Words have the power to inspire and discourage, heal and hurt. They can make us happy or sad, peaceful or angry. Far too often, disparaging words are thrown out casually, only to burst into a ravaging flame, like a cigarette butt tossed in a drought-stricken meadow. Never underestimate the effect your words can have on others.
In eighth grade, one of our assignments was to memorize a poem and recite it in front of the class. I’ve recently scoured the internet for the poem I chose so long ago but haven’t been able to find it. If anyone feels inspired to search, I believe it’s called “The Peach Tree.” I can’t remember all of the words, but here’s my best shot:
The Peach Tree
Once there was a peach tree
No one planted it at all,
And how it chanced to be there
No one ever could recall.
Some careless hand had dropped a seed
Whose hand we’ll never know,
But it took root within the soil
And caused a tree to grow.
It’s like that sometimes with a word
We drop it carelessly,
And it takes root in someone’s life
And grows into a tree.
There may be an additional stanza, but I can’t be certain. Like I said, if anyone finds it, please let me know.
Several years ago, I attended a class at a writer’s conference on how to know if you’re ready to submit your manuscript to a literary agent. As the instructor ran through his list of what to do and what not to do and how important it was not to waste an agent’s time, I became more and more discouraged and convinced I’d never be good enough to have a published book. But then, he finished his presentation and did something totally unexpected. He paused for a long moment, thoughtfully surveying the audience. “I’m going to tell you something.” Another pause.
“God has given you a gift. You not only have an opportunity, but you have an obligation to share your words with the world.”
It was as if lightning had struck me. I sat in the dead center of the room, and it felt as if he were talking directly to me. How could I give up writing my book after such a motivational experience? I am a firm believer that words have the power to change your life.
May we strive to use our words to plant seeds instead of using them to launch stones.