Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Power of Words

As children, we learn our ABC’s and readily sing the alphabet song on cue. At such a young age we treat the learning of the alphabet as a novelty and do not realize the importance or power of the letters we voice. Later on, as we add the ability to read and write to our inventory of skills, we begin to understand the value and significance of our ability to convey and decode the symbols of our language. As our communication improves we realize several factors are interrelated and interconnected which add to the effectiveness of words: volume, body language, vocal expression, word choice, and emotional mindset. It does not take long for human beings to capture the essence of language and the meaning of spoken words. Using sight and sound we interpret, catalogue, react, and respond to information delivered to us. Language is essential to meet daily basic needs.

In school, we spend the first three years of school learning how to read; from fourth grade on, we use reading to learn. In the United State of America the language is English. No other language offers such a choice or range of vocabulary, meanings, interpretation, versatility, application, inventiveness, adaptation, and changeableness. English is truly a living language. Each year, new words are added to the lexicon. Familiar terms are given added definition; Parts of Speech are reassigned to meet public usage, as we continually remodel the forty-two sounds of our alphabet, making them suitable to meet contemporary need and modern living. When I was a kid the word “party” was a noun: “I’m going to a party.” Today, it has become a verb: “Let’s party!”

Years ago, having a mouse in your house was met with panic and baited traps. Today, most desktop computers come with a “mouse” and it is handled with care and given its own pad. The list of such modifications is mind-boggling.

How powerful are words? Next to heartbeats and breathing, words are what give human beings life. In 1957, as a junior at Whiting High School struggling with English, my teacher, Mr. Ulrich, gave me a packet of alphabet cards. “What this?” I asked, “I know the alphabet.” He then taught me the greatest lesson about English. “If you learn to select the right letters, for the right words, at the right time, the world is yours” In a very succinct manner, Mr. Ulrich explained the power of words. Thank what words can do: they can make one happy, sad, cry, smile, laugh, joyful, disappointed, excited, anxious, pleased, and proud. Words can convey appreciation, value, importance, success, failure, accomplishment, recognition, praise, emotion, regret, struggle, trust, honor, affection and respect.

How many times have feelings been hurt because of unkind words? How often have we felt embarrassed, ashamed, rejected or lonely because of hurtful language? Regardless whether such words are written or spoken, the impact is profound.

In contrast, recall the exhilarating feeling when one is the recipient of caring, loving words; recognition for accomplishment, achievement, special occasions or appreciation of friendship. Conveyed electronically or delivered by mail; on fancy stationery, notebook paper, or in person—the heart swell with delicious feelings of goodness, appreciation, thoughtfulness, and love.

Of all the powerful words there are special, vitally important words that define us. As humans we are flawed and prone to make mistakes: most of the time these mistakes are minor, insignificant in nature that does not affect daily life. These periodic miscues are part of growing up, learning experiences, and general interaction with environment and people. Occasionally, however, we commit mistakes that cause pain, suffering, anxiety, stress, and long-lasting consequence. Whether unintentional or on purpose, by commission or omission, we know there is never an excuse not to be kind. Even so, we sometimes say and do unkind things. Once offensive words are conveyed—they remain. You cannot put toothpaste back in the tube. What, then, does one do to heal the wound of unkindness?

We have to make choices in the way we use words? We can use them for criticism, contempt, defensiveness, selfishness and meanness. The tongue and pen can be used to praise or curse, hate or cherish, despise or admire. But if we believe that communication—the power of words—serves to strengthen relationships and provide ways to reshape all persons for the better, we must willingly bestow the gift of forgiveness—to others and ourselves. For with forgiveness, there is love; and love enables us to see with our heart. Such is the power of words.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October's Glory

You’d think that any month holding title to eighth place and then unceremoniously moved down to number ten would be resentful, not October. In spite of the calendar shenanigans of Julius and Augustus Caesar, October accepted its new position in the solar line up in tenth spot, and embellished its allotment of thirty days with exuberance and enthusiasm.

As a full-fledged member of autumn’s sweet-sad season, October brims with delicacies left over from summer’s frivolity as well as presenting its special menu of prepared entrees. Teasing everyone and everything with occasional flashbacks of sun-drenched beach parties, October delivers hours of abundant sunshine and bright blue sky that make music for senses. Elevated temperatures, give vegetation encouragement to feast on nutrients causing lawns to thrive and mowers to mulch. Resident wildlife scurries with added opportunity to prepare stores for upcoming adverse weather conditions; and people display their approval by filling mall parking places, athletic fields, and partaking in activities that commune with nature.

October is also in charge of changing seasonal scenery from full to partial sun, earlier sunsets, morning fog, cool evenings, and drenching inhabitants with light from a harvest moon. Nighttime is no longer filled with a symphony of sound. Dark hours are now more muted and subdued as nocturnal activity is redirected to more pressing tasks. Leaves begin their dance with the sun and wind. Simultaneously changing hue and tint, they twist and turn with every gust of wind displaying an artistry of movement that dazzles the eye and engender envy in those who view themselves as athletic.

When October’s wind imitates November, leaves are separated from their branches and sail about, floating, spinning, displaying their aerodynamics abilities as they land on neighboring turf. Millions upon millions of leaves find rest on mother earth as their function of purpose is complete. Soon landscapes are carpeted with autumn leaves from every variety of tree, bush and shrub, awaiting young-at-heart feet to shuffle through piles of dried deciduous cornflakes as they crunch their way to and from, school and play. Only oak trees stubbornly hold their leaves fast to the branches throughout autumn. In winter, the chocolate-colored vegetation from these acorn makers will afford stark contrast to snow-covered latticed branches of leaf-bare trees.

When October realized it was being reassigned placement on the monthly annual it decided to be a full-service participant. There is something for everyone: sight, sound, scent, and touch. October is a sensory extravaganza. Throughout October’s thirty-one days, the moon will take time to play peek-a-boo with precocious clouds, shining full strength, then, like a bashful child, provide frosty luminous moonlight when hiding behind clouds as they float by. Weather will cooperate by allowing convertibles to travel top-down celebrating good times. Sweethearts of all ages will join hands and hearts as they journey through days, forming bonds, sharing moments of melancholy remembrance of times gone by and favorite memories. Each of us in our own way finds time to acknowledge, treasure, and appreciate October’s moments to remember. Saturday afternoons in the fall are like precious jewels. Sundays have a tranquil, easy peaceful feeling as the season of autumn beckons for a slower pace than the preceding hectic summer. This time of year is when nature willingly accepts October’s recycling materials as flowers, garden remnants and trees return their bounty to mother earth. Fringe benefits include the perfume of burning autumn leaves, the scent of early morning dampness as blankets of fog become gossamer droplets of dew by the warmth of early morning sun. Crystal clear October nights is delicious and crispy like fresh potato chips. Bathed in moonlight under a sky quilted with stars, romantics share hopes and dreams and wonder at the majesty of the universe. The sight of ducks and geese winging southward toward warmer climes, quacking and honking their exuberance in appreciation for the summer just past is a signal that change is coming. Early on, these fair weather creatures decided that rock salt and snow shovels are not for them. Permanent wildlife residents search out nooks and crannies in which to hunker down during the frigid cold and snowy winter weather. Human residents begin their preparation for seasonal change, too. Lawn mowers are replaced by snow blowers, furnaces take over from air-conditioners, and staying indoors become more attractive that being out-of-doors. Sweaters, windbreakers, blankets and hot cocoa are now more prevalent than tank tops, sandals, and ice tea.

October is the time of harvest as the bounty of one’s labors is displayed for all to see and enjoy. The glory of October is that it provides the means for all of us to taste the sweetness of autumn. October can be an attitude or an age. It can be a time for renewal or reflection, continuation or beginning. The fall of the year can bring forth memories or adventurous moments. Such is the glory of October.

Where's Al going to be next???

Check back soon for his next appearance at a location near you!