Sunday, May 13, 2012

Words Can Leave a Lasting Wound or a Lasting Legacy

Words Can Cause Damage Deeper than Sticks and Stones - Photo from Wikimedia Commons
I remember listening to a friend's speech in 4-H when I was a child. She began with the words "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can break my heart." I heard that speech more than 25 years ago and still remember the look in my young friend's eyes. She spoke from the heart...a heart that had been pierced by a double-edged tongue.

The damage often begins in childhood. The kids who don't fit the mold are typically informed of that difference at an early age by other children. All too often adults send those negative messages as well. Too short. Too tall. Too large. Too thin. Special diet. Clothing style. Hairstyle. Family history. Reading ability. Lack of agility. Speech. IQ. Eyeglasses. The list could go way beyond the computer screen.

One of the participants in my group exercise class mentioned something about me being talkative and outgoing. I had to admit right then and there that I tend to be quite shy and reserved the majority of the time. Sure, I can get up in front of a group exercise class, turn on some music and lead a group through a workout, but my natural instinct is to hide from groups who are simply socializing. I guess part of that stems from the feeling that I never fit in as a child. Perhaps I am simply in self-preservation mode at times.

Sporting Competition Can Lead to Bullying © Katrena
Yes, words can wound, but non-verbal language and the intent behind the words can speak even more loudly. I remember the day my school classmates gave me a standing ovation during a basketball game. I had worked hard, really hard, all season. I don't think there is a thing the coach could have done to turn me into a "good" player. My self-confidence was probably below zero because my position during games had been to sit on the bench the entire season, but I came and cheered because I was part of the team. 

Yet, during that home game, the coach gave me the cue to join the other players on the court. I nearly fell off the bench due to the shock but was delighted to finally have the opportunity to play. As I ran to my position, I saw everyone on our side of the gym standing and clapping like crazy. I was later informed that my classmates were thrilled because they knew we had won the game when I got to play. I finished out the season only playing in one other game...the one the coach knew we had already lost.

I told my oldest daughter that she won first place in my eyes after she ran her first 5K. She finished what she started, cut several minutes off her previous best time, and did not give up. Even though only the fastest kids' names were announced, I could not have been prouder of my daughter. I was excited for my second daughter when she was chosen to read her paper for a Veterans Day program. She had been in speech therapy not long before that time, and to hear her speak eloquently in front of hundreds of children, teachers, parents, and those who have defended our country made my heart swell with pride, and I made sure to tell her that. My youngest loves to tackle the dog and brush her teeth. I laugh and tell her that she might make a great dog groomer, dentist, or even a lion tamer when she grows up!

Inspire Others With Encouraging Words © Katrena
I love to teach group exercise classes for kids. I try to ensure that the classes are fun. If we play freeze dance, everyone can keep dancing when the music comes back on. If we do the limbo, nobody has to sit out – they can discover new and creative ways of getting under the stick! One of the kids' favorite games is the snail – we join hands and I lead them into a tighter and tighter circle and finally unwind the group back into a single circle facing outward. Nobody is a loser. Sometimes we sweat. Sometimes we smile...or maybe even laugh. The idea is to teach the kids that being physically active can actually be fun. Everyone wins. At the end of the class, I like to give the kids a high five before the go out the door. Every once in a while, a child will come up to me and give me a huge bear hug. No words needed.

Hearing the cadence of a different drummer can give people the ability to enjoy rhythms never imagined by others. May the wounds that run deep within us serve to open our eyes to the needs of others and inspire us to say the very words they need to hear!

Readers may also wish to check out my free printable I love you notes or words of encouragement. Visit the Wildflower Bouquets site map for more stories of hope, inspiration, enjoying simple pleasures, and more.

The Joy of Marching to a Different Drummer's Beat - Photo by Roosewelt Pinheiro/ABr at Wikimedia Commons

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