Our URC Link Minister, Rev’d David Spence, sends the following Message for the month of March 2018 ….
Has it ever occurred to you that the words we speak can, and often do, have an effect on the person listening to those words?
Through our words we can encourage and uplift; we can make a person feel valued, accepted and loved.
But our words can also have a negative effect, causing hurt and injury.
If our words are cruel or unkind, we can destroy a person’s confidence; making them to feel inadequate, useless and rejected.
Mary Ann Bird, in her memoir entitled The Whisper Test, tells of the power of words of acceptance in her own life.
Mary had grown up knowing that she was different from the other kids, and she hated it.
She was born with a cleft palate and had to bear the jokes and stares of cruel children who teased her non-stop about her misshaped lip, crooked nose, and garbled speech.
With all the teasing, Mary Ann grew up hating the fact that she was “different.”
She was convinced that no one, outside her family, could ever love her … until she entered Mrs. Leonard’s class.
Mrs. Leonard had a warm smile, a round face, and shiny brown hair.
While everyone in her class liked her, Mary Ann came to love Mrs. Leonard.
In the 1950’s, it was common for teachers to give their children an annual hearing test.
However, in Mary’s case, in addition to her cleft palate, she was barely able to hear out of one ear.
Determined not to let the other children have another “difference” to point out, she would cheat on the test each year.
The “whisper test” was given by having a child walk to the front of the classroom, turn sideways, close one ear with a finger, and then repeat something which the teacher whispered.
Mary would turn her bad ear towards her teacher and pretend to cover her good ear.
She knew that teachers would often say things like, “The sky is blue,” or “What colour are your shoes?”
But not on that day.
When her turn came, Mary Ann was called to the teacher’s desk.
As Mary Ann cupped her hand over her good ear, Mrs Leonard leaned forward to whisper. “I waited for those words,” Mary Ann wrote, “which God must have put into her mouth, those seven words which changed my life.”
Mrs Leonard did not say, “The sky is blue” or “You have new shoes.”
What she whispered was “I wish you were my little girl.”
Mary Ann went on to become a teacher herself, a person of inner beauty and great kindness.
Each one of us has the power of words at our disposal.
We are involved in conversations almost every day of our lives.
We chat with family and friends; we talk with neighbours and colleagues at work.
We make phone calls and send emails.
We are constantly using words.
But how often do we consider the effect our words have upon those on the receiving end.
Most of us do not deliberately use words to cause hurt or distress, like the cruel children who teased Mary Ann.
But sometimes we say things without thinking and only realise afterwards that what we have said was foolish, or
even hurtful and offensive.
By then the damage is done.
Mrs Leonard was clearly a woman of insight and understanding.
She thought very carefully about the words she was to say to a young and vulnerable Mary Ann, and those words had a huge impact on that little girl’s whole life.
Some years back I came across this simple poem about the power of words:
A careless word may kindle strife;
A cruel word may wreck a life.
A bitter word may hate instil;
A brutal word may smite and kill.
A gracious word may smooth the way;
A joyous word may light the day.
A timely word may lessen stress;
A loving word may heal and bless.
Yours in Christian love,