Often when we are out in the world, we are oblivious to other people. We are “in our own world”—somewhere far removed. Instead of being in the moment, we are focused on what we need to get done, how much time we have and what the traffic will be like. Life throws challenges and surprises at us daily as we work to keep up and find balance in our lives
When we talk to people while on our errands it’s usually rushed and the bare minimum that courtesy allows. We say, “Hi, How’s it going?” but we don’t listen for the answer. Nobody expects a detailed, blow-by-blow list of what’s going on in your personal life, but the words are well meant and even a brief, honest sentence can change a forgettable ‘transaction’ into a feel-good one where we have connected to a fellow human being.
As we are all running around doing the things we need to do to keep our lives in order, we rush by people instead of being with people. We don’t think about talking to other people about the meaning of life, questioning what our priorities should be, or discussing how we face challenges, loss or illness.
As the saying goes, “everyone is dealing with something.” People don’t wear signs telling us what they are going through. Most people have their game face on, so it’s hard to know what they are facing. Only rarely do we remove the mask, which is why some of our deepest communications about life often happen at the point of crisis: in a hospital, at a car accident, in a rehab center/mental health clinic or after a funeral.
As we go about our lives, we try to keep our chins up and look at the bright side. Many of us make a daily, valiant effort to hope for the best. I have found, however, that the power of one word at an unexpected time can have a big impact. At various times in my life, I have stumbled onto things with a single word on them—just the word I needed to hear at a rocky time. Sometimes, I’ve found that word of encouragement at a check-out counter, in baskets of odds and ends, on signs, in greeting cards, or carved in to stones ranging from pocket-size to garden boulders.
The words that make a difference for me are ones that sum up our daily, collective shared human experience. They speak to the deep emotions, and reveal meaning and understanding. These special words are a common language of loss, grief, tragedy, triumph, survival. They are often the words we need to hear, but the ones we don’t say to each other on a daily basis. They are words we all understand, words we all feel deeply, words that powerfully effect our life. Maybe we don’t say them often because they touch us deeply inside and we recognize their power.
Here are the words that have made a difference for me:
Here’s my challenge to you. For one month, look for the words that jump out at you. They’ll be in the most unlikely places. Write them down. Mull them over. Think about them when you wake up and when you go to sleep. You’ll be surprised when you discover their power!