Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Words we Speak

Yesterday Kiwi was invited to a birthday party in the morning. While she joined four other little girls in a "dancing diva party"(she insisted on wearing her Tinkerbelle costume because she said she had to wear a dress to a dancing party) Mason, Little Man and I went and got some things we needed at Walmart.
After waiting in a typical Walmart line (read: we were late to pick up Kiwi) it was our turn to check out. The cashier greeted us with a friendly although a bit tired greeting. She was an older woman, probably in her late fifties or early sixties with grey hair pulled back with a comb clip and a brace on her wrist and lower arm indicating that the constant lifting and scanning of grocery items probably caused her some discomfort and pain. As she started scanning our groceries, a little glimmer caught my eye and I noticed that she had on dangling, sparkly triangle earrings. They were really cute earrings and for some reason I was fixated on them. The thought of her putting the effort into choosing them out to go to her shift at work endeared this stranger to me. I found myself thinking of a talk that had been given on Sunday about how powerful our words to other people can be. I thought to myself I should tell her that her earrings are cute.
So I opened my mouth and said, "I like your earrings, they are really pretty." She responded, "Thank you," and almost immediately started to being friendlier to Little Man and I. And that was that. What I hadn't expected was Little Man. He had been busy climbing on the side of the cart and excitedly rummaging through each newly bagged grocery sack for the lunch treat he had picked out for being my helper at the store. I didn't think he had been paying attention at all and suddenly, he looked up and said, "You're a really fast worker" to the lady. She did not hear him, but it was such a reminder to me. My kids are always watching me and they are learning how to treat and interact with other people from me.
Now I am well aware that commenting on a cashier's earrings are not going to change anything in her life, but her reaction to the words and the talk from the day before were a reminder to me of the power we each possess with the words we give or do not give. There have been countless times in my life when a passing comment or kind word directed at me has made a difference in my day and in my life. Probably immediately forgotten by the giver of the words, it is remembered for years by me. Like the kind man who stopped in the grocery store a couple of years ago. Kiwi was one and Little Man three and there was some sort of breakdown going on in the card aisle. I had been stooping down, getting to the kids level and trying to calm them down while all the while I could feel somebody's eyes watching us. Thinking we were probably causing a spectacle, I felt my face go red, but continued to try to salvage this grocery store trip. When the kids were strapped back into the little car thing on the front of the cart, I stood up to resume my shopping. That is when the man approached me, smiled and simply said, "You are doing a really good job." That man's words made the difference between me leaving the store feeling frustrated and embarrassed to me leaving the store feeling like things weren't so bad after all.
We have influence on those around us with our words and I feel like it's even more so for children. Not only are children always watching the adults around them, but the words we say to them as parents, teachers, grandparents, coaches, church leaders, bus drivers have such an impact on their little developing beings.

"We must be so careful in speaking to a child. What we say or don't say, how we say it and when is so very, very important in shaping a child's view of himself or herself. But it is even more important in shaping that child's faith in us and their faith in God. Be constructive in your comments to a child-always. Never tell them, even in whimsy, that they are fat or dumb or lazy or homely. You would never do that maliciously, but they remember and may struggle for years trying to forget-and forgive. And try not to compare your children, even if you think you are skillful at it. You may say most positively that "Susan is pretty and Sandra is bright," but all Susan will remember is that she isn't bright and Sandra that she isn't pretty." Praise each child individually for what that child is, and help him or her escape our culture's obsession with comparing, competing, and never feeling we are enough."
*From Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's The Tongue of Angels (click to read the rest of talk)

And so I'm going to try to do a little better. To remember to say the positive things I think and to bite my tongue from letting the little comments (usually heard by my husband and children) that seem to slip out of my mouth in stressful situations from getting out.
And that was about twenty times longer then I had planned on when I uploaded the picture with Elder Holland's quote.


  1. Thanks Meliss, that was what I needed today!

  2. I really enjoyed that one. This is Brandon.