The Cub Scouts surrounded me in the Mount View Elementary School gym, dancing around in a circle from which I couldn’t escape. I was seven, or maybe six. They sing-song repeated again and again and again, “BigBu-uttBawlBa-byBec-ky! Bigbu-utt…” Mom was a den leader and my older brother was in the group. Mom must have been in a storeroom getting supplies or out in the hall or somewhere, just not right there right then. I remember how hot the tears felt on my face when I inevitably began crying-proving their taunts to be true in that regard. About the other, well, up until that day I’d never really noticed my sizable caboose. I was just a happy little kid, completely innocent of the scrutiny under which I, because I am a girl, would have to live my life.
The boy’s words were powerful. I don’t remember who any of the boys were. I don’t remember their faces. But, 50 years later (Fifty years later!) their words still sting.
In the first story of the Bible, God speaks and things happen. “In the beginning was the Word” is how John starts telling his version of the Gospel story. Words count. They create worlds. Once spoken, they can’t be unspoken ever again.
One day, when my boys were young I heard mayhem and madness breaking out in the den. Flying into the room from around the corner where I had been folding laundry (all those cloth diapers!) I found three-and-a-half year-old Adam in the clutches of two year-old Daniel while baby Ben watched in stunned amazement from the safety of his bouncy seat. Dan had Adam by two fists-full of hair. He was banging him up against the sofa, ka-plow, ka-plow, ka-plow! Both boys were hollering like warriors from Braveheart. Plucking Adam up under my right arm, and Daniel under my left I carried them, legs dangling into the adjoining dining room and while plopping each on his own chair for time-out calmly I said, “Boys, in our family we don’t hurt each other. In our family, we love and protect each other.” I heard myself saying those words and at the exact same time in another region of my brain skepticism reigned, “Don’t hurt each other? Yeah, right!”
But you know what? Those words I spoke had power. I heard myself say them and I thought, “Yes! Yes! This is who we are, who we will be as a family. Even if we don’t always get it right, we will be, we are a family who loves and protects each other.”
Twenty-five years and a whole lot of family triumphs and tragedies later my three sons (cue the sit-com music) and I loved and protected each other through a whole lot of living.
I’m thinking about the power of words today as the nation’s Commander-in-Chief tweeted a taunt about “fire and fury.” I shudder to think how long the world may be shaped by the consequences of just three words. Twenty-five years? Fifty years? A century or more??
Words count. Words create worlds. Words shape reality.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of each of our hearts be offerings of love by which the world is made, not worse, but ever better.