Are the words we use helpful or unhelpful, harmful or useful? Do we think about what we say before we speak? I have thought a lot about this lately since I was challenged about something I said on Friday. What I said could have been phrased more positively. I generally do think about what I say, but not this time. I have respect for the person who corrected me and she was absolutely right. I had, albeit without thinking, spoken of someone as if they had no identity. What I wanted to do was make her aware of two people I had seen sleeping rough, but I gave the information as "One over there and one over there". My intentions were good but I had forgotten their "identity".
I have many times in my life struggled with fighting for my identity, as a woman, as someone with a disability for example. I have been just given "labels" rather than someone who happens to ride a mobility scooter due to having a disability or that I happen to be a woman. I have been insulted many times because of this. One that really hurt was "White bitch on a scooter with a dog". Referring to my beautiful assistance dog. (This was sorted. The security guard escorted the insulter from the shop.) But nevertheless, it hurt a lot. This is not who I am. I am so much more. I may have a disability, I may need to use a mobility scooter, have a beautiful dog to assist me. But I am so much more. It reminds me of a poem I once read - Look closer, see me. If I am correct, it was written by a lady in hospital about the nurses and wanting them to see deeper. Well worth a look. We never know someone unless we try to look closer. Words and labels are not always helpful, identity can be lost.
My Mum would say, "If you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all". She is so right. I remember someone coming to give a talk at a school I once worked at. He brought in a knife and cut up some fruit. He used the knife to show that it could be used for good or (as we have seen of late) for terrible things. He associated this to words we use. They can be helpful. They can also wound. Names hurt far more in bullying as they stay with you. I still hate the name I was called at school - fleabag. It still hurts. But, there are positive things people have spoken to me that I still remember. We will not always remember what people say or do to us but we will always remember the way we felt as a result, so it is better to leave people with positive feelings.
A final thought - Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are endless. – Mother Teresa.
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