Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Power of Words

I've had two important experiences with words in less than a week.

The first one was when I was trying to explain the story line of a book I recently read and liked.  It was Ann Patchet's Run, and tells a complex story about three families whose lives intersect in powerful ways through adoption.  In trying to describe it to a few friends I used the terms birth mother, adoptive parents, adopted children, etc.  But these are issues I am not in the practice of discussing, so I fumbled at one point and used the term "real" to distinguish the biological child.  Of course, I didn't mean that the other children were not "real" or that the relationships were determined by biology.  One of the women in the group has an adopted child - and she was on me fast!  I felt lousy for the rest of the afternoon and tried to shake it off.  As someone who tries to be sensitive to other people's feelings, I felt badly that I had messed up here - that someone's feelings could have been hurt by my careless use of words.  That was the unpleasant example of how important the words are that we use - a place where I need to work harder.

The delightful experience was today when my husband told me a little story about our grandson.  Landen is approaching 4 and is particularly observant.  He was visiting the other day and Al was getting him a snack.  When Al gave him a spoon, Landen handed it back to him and said, "No, I want a gold one.  Becky gives Marcus and me the gold spoons because she says we're special boys."  I'm thrilled that he carries this message inside that he is special.  Such a simple statement made one afternoon that I don't even remember - but it made an impression on him, and helps to confirm his place in the world as one very precious child.

1 comment:

  1. I really understood what you said about carefully choosing the words we use. It takes special awareness of people around us. Even so, we sometimes unintentionally hurt someone. You realized it as soon as you said "real" child so that means you are sensitive to the feelings of others. I once used a Japanese expression for "I have no transportation" which literally is " I have no legs" in front of a friend who is paralyzed from the neck down. Only that night another friend gently pointed it out. As we learn little by little, we change inside too. Thanks for sharing what, at the time, was an embarrassing experience for you!I always like your honesty!!