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Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 NIV

“Mouthwash Cancels Out Benefits of Exercise.” Even before reading the article, it was clear the headline was misleading. Sure enough, hours later, it was revised to: “Mouthwash Cancels Out Key Benefits of Exercise, One Study Finds.

These old newspaper headlines show the importance of word choice:

Amphibious pitcher makes debute funniest newspaper headlines

funniest newspaper headlines

funniest newspaper headlines

Of course, sometimes, the editor is just having fun with wordplay, as in the case of the psychic who couldn’t predict her own arrest.

Choosing just the right word is an editor’s job, but it’s just as important for you and I to give consideration to the impact of the things we say to one another.

With all the negativity in the news lately, it’s more important than ever to choose your words carefully. You never know what someone’s going through as you encounter them in the course of a day.

So if the cashier should have said, “Thank you, have a good day,” but didn’t, maybe she just can’t wish you what she doesn’t have herself. Maybe her baby wouldn’t sleep last night and the dog wouldn’t stop barking. Perhaps when she got to work two minutes late, the boss read her the riot act. It’s possible she can’t find the energy to have a bad day, and at the same time, wish someone else a good day.

If you’ve been there yourself, try to find it in your heart to forgive these minor infractions. Your kindness could be the catalyst that enables her to have a good day, and in turn, wish a good day to others.

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On jury duty years ago, we were given a break during a case so we could stretch our legs. I went to the snack store, picked up some noshes and got in line. When it was my turn, the cashier asked, “What have you got today, ma’am?” In response, I said, “Oh, just a couple of these things,” and absent-mindedly waved toward my snacks. “I’m sorry, ma’am, you’re going to have to be more specific,” he said. “You see, I’m unsighted.”

I apologized profusely — so much so that he realized I didn’t just mean I was sorry for the flip answer. I’ll never forget his response. He said, “No need to feel sorry, ma’am. If the Good Lord had wanted me to be sighted, he would’ve given me sight. I work around it.” 

His strength of character was impressive, but so was the collective moral compass that switched on for those waiting in line. The man could tell which coins he was being given by their weight and size, but the bills all felt alike, so he had to ask what denomination he was being given. 

Suddenly we all had eagle eyes. You say you gave him a twenty dollar bill? Let me check on that. People were craning their necks to keep everyone else honest. It was as if a tiny Community Watch had formed spontaneously.

I think of that day when I lose faith in humanity, or when I think I’ve got it hard due to my own visual impairment, which developed later. That man soldiered on despite the hardship and got it done. And those people in line did the right thing without being asked. The truth is, the milk of human kindness hasn’t yet soured into yogurt. Just under the surface, the still, small voice is speaking loud and clear.

Okay. So you say you want it all? Noted.🗹 

First, you’re going to have to start with “nothing” as a baseline. See, that way, you have a frame of reference. 

Next you’re going to have “some,” to help you learn how to manage “it all” when it arrives. If you don’t learn from this phase, it’s okay. We’ll helpfully let you start over at “nothing” again to get those More Muscles in shape.

Very few ever get to “it all” because even the ones who seem to have “it all” are deeply in debt, sick from their secrets and alone in a crowd. 

The “all” you’re really seeking isn’t a big pile of money, a perfectly-coiffed and curated persona on Instagram and a happily-ever-after with a stranger you met by swiping right on a dating app.

Actually, the ache for “it all” embedded within you is something else. Just as you’ve got a heartbeat, that’s your soulbeat. It’s:

  • Being who you are, no matter what room you walk into.
  • Learning every day that you don’t have all the answers, but that the questions themselves are sometimes the point.
  • Working toward a goal to engage all your faculties and your faith at the same time.
  • Using your own experience to know that people causing pain in your life are in pain themselves and greeting that grief with grace.
  • Getting to know and love yourself just as you would a “soulmate” so that you don’t end up with a “cellmate,” both locked into the self-defeating notion that you’ve failed to complete each other.

Life really is simpler than you make it out to be. 

  • Find your forte. Do that with all your heart. 
  • Find your community. Connect and show you care. 
  • Be yourself. If you meet a partner on the same page, be yourselves together.
  • Do your best. 
  • Take care of yourself. 
  • Be kind. 

Whatever you can’t figure out, turn it over to me in prayer. You may come to realize that in some ways, you already do have “it all.”

When someone says, “I owe you an apology,” have they really apologized? It seems to me that until they say the words, “I’m sorry,” it doesn’t count. Owing an apology is like saying, put it on my account!

“That show’s been running for seven seasons and I never miss it,” a commenter online said, and I had to mull that over. Does that mean they like the program? Or perhaps they don’t watch it, and frankly, they don’t miss it either?

“Hey, Ruth! Long time!” It was an old acquaintance I’d run into at the store. “You look exactly the same!” he said, to which I replied, “Thank you!” I assumed it was meant as a compliment, but was it? What if he’d actually meant, “You looked like forty miles of bad road twenty years ago, and dagnabbit, you look exactly the same today! My condolences!”

Maybe we’ll never know what other people are thinking. The best we can do is to be truthful yet tactful, choosing our words carefully. With any luck, we’ll be able to make our point in a kind and thoughtful way. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Step with care and great tact, and remember that life’s a great balancing act.” 

credit: today.com

Let’s say you had a meeting and it was crunch time. Looking over the attendees, you realize there’s a baby sitting in one of the chairs in a suit and tie. Now, that’s something you don’t see every day! 

Look at you. You can’t even hold your own head up, man! You’re drooling, babbling on about nothing, and your contribution at the last meeting was nothing but a big pile of poop. Get ahold of yourself! 

You notice the baby’s round belly under his pocket protector and bib.

You’re letting yourself go around the middle, there, pal. You really should do some crunches!

You wouldn’t expect a baby to know how to crunch numbers. Heck, they can’t even crunch granola yet! And surely a baby’s too young to hit the gym.

Different rules apply to people depending on the situation, and we don’t all develop at the same pace. Some may think that, just because they haven’t had an experience, that experience isn’t valid.

People who call others “snowflake” or “overly sensitive” are actually, let me see if I can find the technical term here in my thesaurus.. Oh yes. Insensitive clods!

Mercy. Let me re-phrase that. 

Such people don’t seem to have been born with a compassion compass, that thing inside that says, I may not understand what you’ve been through, but I can see that you’ve been profoundly affected by it.

Then again, if I label them insensitive clods, I’m the one being insensitive. 

Perhaps a better way to frame it is that they’re newborns in terms of the expression of empathy. Their mercy-muscles haven’t formed fully yet. One day they may be in a new situation and it’ll be crunch time for them. Here’s hoping the people in that room will show them some compassion.

You know what I realized today? That I wished all my doctors had multiple sclerosis.

Wait. What?!?

Hold up. That’s not what I meant at all!

Let me re-phrase that. What I meant was, a doctor with MS would have unique insights that might be helpful to me as a fellow patient.

This is what it’s like to write a blog post with MS-mind. My posts begin with disjointed ideas that eventually make sense. Still, I’ll never publish a post until Lori or SueBE has had a chance to proofread it. 

Often, I find that I’m trying to explain symptoms to doctors who see through a lens that’s calibrated by conventional wisdom. Once, I told a physician that food, liquids and pills can get stuck in my throat due to trouble swallowing. She suggested liquid medications instead of pills, but that wouldn’t be helpful, as it would take several swallows to get down, as opposed to a pill, which is only a gulp or two of water. 

That’s why I’m encouraged to read a blog like The Cricket Pages, because it’s written by a young lady who’s licensed as a social worker, but also struggles with anxiety. Her description of getting lost in a parking deck after taking her licensing exam was nerve-wracking just to read, and so relatable.

So while I don’t wish illness on any doctors out there, as this article about a doctor who became a patient shows, it can change their perspective. That can be the case in terms of faith as well. If you’ve been through hardships in your life, you know how it feels to soldier through it alone. You can be a healer yourself. All it takes is a word of encouragement and a heart of compassion.

A Texas Walmart banned a woman who ate half of a cake as she shopped, then demanded half off the price of the cake. Stories like this one make me think that the moral compass of the nation is out of whack, but is it really?

Maybe it’s just a matter of shifting your gaze to find positive things going on in the world.

DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA/ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER VIA GETTY IMAGES

Like the community that rallied behind California bakery owner, John Chhan, buying out all of his baked goods quickly every single day. Customers lined up as early as 4:30 AM, buying donuts in bulk to clear out the inventory. Why? Once all the donuts were sold out, he could close the shop and be with his wife, who was recovering from a brain aneurysm.“We are so thankful,” Chhan said.

Image via MCACC and Callie Mac/Facebook

Or the volunteers coming together to comfort shelter dogs during Fourth of July fireworks. Operation “Calm the Canines” is underway, and every dog in the shelter will have his or her own personal paw-holder when the noisy celebrations begin. It’s a twist on the therapy dog idea: a therapy person. A thera-person, if you will!

Callie Mac of the Maricopa County Animal Care & Control (MCACC), the organizer of this event said, “Huge thank you to everyone who showed up to help our shelter dogs! It takes a village! ❤”

There’s plenty of positive energy still left in the world. It just takes a shift in focus and a little bit of hope.

Photo: Tom Slemmons

Regret is just another word for that thing in life we feel needs fixing. I could be happy, if only I weren’t ______ fill in the blank. Sick. Broke. Too tall. Too short. Too heavy. Too thin. From the wrong side of the tracks. I’ve always wondered where that is, geographically. I know it’s supposed to be figurative, but so many of us have spent time there in our lives, it must actually exist somewhere. Sometimes the wrong side of the tracks is a powerful temptation.

It’s been an appealing adventure for generations, hasn’t it? Taking a walk on the wild side. We all seem to grow out of it and disavow it. Many claim that they just “fell in with the wrong crowd.” Wouldn’t it be refreshing if just one person admitted that they actually were the wrong crowd? That doing all those ill-advised and often illegal things were actually their own idea?

All of those choices, good and bad, led us to the place we are today.

We’ve all invested a lot of time being mad at some part of who we are, and those messages eventually seep into the psyche. It’s like an internal speed bump. You don’t know what it is exactly, you just know you can’t get over it.

There’s a life lesson in the Japanese art of Kintsugi. When a piece of porcelain is broken, it is repaired using gold and becomes more precious afterward. Maybe those broken places are intersections. One part of life ends and a new one begins. Every experience imbues and enriches you with new ways of being. Breaking down can break you open, and that’s not always a bad thing. It might even lead to a breakthrough.

Color me befuddled. I could have sworn the voiceover in the commercial said that patients with “Twerkulosis” were advised not to take this medication.

Pause.

Twerkulosis? Is that something you’d see in a viral dance video? Viral in a good way, I suppose. Not like a contagion, or something. Of course, twerking at my age could throw a hitch in my gitalong. A twist in my pretzel.

Of course, what he said was: “Tuberculosis.”

Then I could have sworn a man in a conversation with friends spoke of being a “nocturnal octopus.” What might that be? A man who gets all handsy in the evening? That’s a bad thing, I would guess.

Oh. Wait. He said “eternal optimist.”

Mercy. This is why people get cranky as they get older. We start to have trouble with the senses we’ve counted on our entire lives. Hearing gets hinky. Vision gets blurry. And, of course, most people don’t project when they speak, so it can all lead to frustration.

It’s like a real-life game of Mad Libs. What random word will my ears hear? What is actually being said? Maybe this part of our lives is intended to teach us humility and those around us patience. Now, more than ever, the Golden Rule is a godsend.

When my son was younger, one of the kids from the neighborhood came over just as my son and his friends were getting ready to ride their bikes. Landon (not his real name) didn’t have a bike, so I told him he could borrow mine.

When Landon came back he looked guilt-ridden. One of the other kids was saying to him, “You’re in big trouble, man. She’s gonna get real mad at you. She’ll tell your mom, and you’ll be on punishment forever. Nothing you can do about it.”

When Landon finally came up to me on the porch, he apologized. “For what, honey?” I asked. “I broke the bike,” he said. “My mom gets paid on Friday, so I’ll ask her to pay for the bike, and I’ll do chores to pay her back. Might take me a year, but I’ll make it right.”

This was both touching and heartbreaking. What a long ride back it must have been for that young man. Especially with the other kid bending his ear, piling guilt upon fear.

“No need for that, son. That bike was already hinky. One of Cole’s other friends messed it up, and didn’t even apologize. Don’t worry about it for a minute. Come on. We’re having Jiffy Pop.”

I wanted to say to the other child who’d appointed himself chief guilt-inducer, You should be ashamed! But it was too late for that. He already was. Misery loves company, and that’s the only language he knew. Someone had said these things to him, too, in his lifetime. I decided to extend hospitality to him instead. “Popcorn for you?” I asked.

Shame can be contagious, but luckily, there’s an antidote: grace.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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